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EPA Reviews Risk to Children of Perchlorate in Drinking Water

WASHINGTON, DC, August 5, 2009 (ENS) - Perchlorate, a toxic component of rocket fuel, fireworks and safety flares that contaminates water supplies in 35 states, may come under federal regulation after a scientific review, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today.

Last October, the Bush-era EPA made a preliminary decision not to regulate perchlorate in drinking water, saying, "The agency has determined that a national primary drinking water regulation for perchlorate would not present a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems."

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson today announced that the agency will review that decision with special attention to the effects of perchlorates on the health of infants and young children.

"It is critically important to protect sensitive populations, particularly infants and young children, from perchlorate in drinking water," said Jackson. "As we re-evaluate the science around perchlorate, we will seek public input before making a regulatory determination based on the best science."

The analysis presented in the notice announced today more directly evaluates children's exposure to perchlorate. This step takes into account the fact that infants and children consume more water per body weight than do adults.

EPA is now considering a broader range of alternatives for interpreting the available data on the level of health concern, the frequency of occurrence of perchlorate in drinking water, and the opportunity for health risk reduction through a national primary drinking water standard that sets a legal limit on perchlorate concentration.

The EPA announcement pleased U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a longstanding proponent of setting a standard for perchlorate in drinking water who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

"Perchlorate, a toxic chemical contained in rocket fuel, does not belong in our drinking water, so I am very pleased to see the Obama administration taking the first steps toward protecting our families from this dangerous contaminant," said Boxer.

"The science has made clear that perchlorate can threaten the health of pregnant women and young children across the nation, and that is why I have consistently worked for strong safeguards to protect people from this toxic chemical," she said.

Perchlorates are colorless salts that have no odor and dissolve easily in water. They have been found in many foods, such as milk and lettuce, and in some drinking water supplies.