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Is Toxic Perchlorate in Utah's Food?

ABC 4 Investigation

SALT LAKE CITY - For sixty years, Rocket testing in the state of Utah has been a point of pride.

Such testing has been a creator of high-paying, high-tech jobs and a hub for military research and development. Now, half a century later, we're learning these tests have come at a price; the ultimate costs, no one quite knows.

It's in the form of a chemical called perchlorate, a key component of solid rocket fuel and other weapons systems. It was manufactured and stored in Utah, not always with the greatest of care.

In concentrations as low as 24 parts per billion it impairs thyroid function and inhibits organ development. It poses an especially grave risk to newborns and fetuses, where perchlorate exposure can impair brain development, change behavior and decrease learning abilities.

It's not only been detected in Utah's groundwater, but it's also turned up in the food chain, including the milk supply. And not just here, but in 27 other states, where it's also been found in produce and even breast milk.

Dr. Anila Jacob is a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group. For 5 years, she's been pushing the federal government to put perchlorate standards into law. Until then, she says Utah should act on a state level to protect its citizens.

"Our concern is that it's in the drinking water of 28 states including Utah. We also know that the FDA recently did testing and of the three hundred foods they tested, three quarters, or seventy five percent of these foods tested positive for perchlorate," said Jacob.

So just how pervasive is perchlorate contamination?

A congressional briefing obtained by ABC 4 News shows there are at least 45 contaminated sites in 19 states, all of them near major military installations or defense manufacturers.

Three of the hot zones are in Utah.

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