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Perchlorate

Those Rockets Fired Into Space Are Tainting Our Food

By James Donahue

Among the disturbing pieces of information received in my e-mail is a report from the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. Government, under President George W Bush, imposed a gag order on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the discovery of lettuce contaminated by rocket fuel residue.

The story said our constant firing of rockets into space has created something called perchlorate pollution. Studies are showing high levels of perchlorate, a rocket fuel component, contaminating the nation's lettuce supply.

According to the report, perchlorate also is found in our drinking water. Americans are apparently ingesting the chemical in the water and some food sources. But what does this mean? What will exposure to this chemical do to us?

Perchlorate is a possible carcinogen, a thyroid disrupter, and it may cause birth defects. The problem is, nobody knows for sure how much of the stuff the human body can absorb before reaching toxic levels.

The report says: "Perchlorate pollution in drinking water has become a major concern in some 20 states across the country, after an EPA recommendation last year that found  perchlorate in drinking water poses dangers to human health, particularly to infant development, when found in concentrations above one part per billion."

By why this standard? Nobody seems to know. That is because the Defense Department has refused to finance money needed for testing and sampling our food supply. And now the government has blocked the EPA from doing much about this contemporary threat to human health.

The reason is obvious. There is a lot of money involved.

The Pentagon and several defense contractors, who face billions of dollars in potential cleanup liability for perchlorate pollution, are opposing an EPA health-risk assessment. Instead, they argue that perchlorate is safe in drinking water at levels 70 to 200 times higher than the EPA says is safe.

The White House recently proposed a bill in Congress, in the name of military "readiness," that would effectively exempt the Pentagon and defense industry from much of their potential liability.

Also the White House Office of Management and Budget reportedly intervened to delay further regulatory action on perchlorate, by referring the health debate to the National Academy of Sciences for review. According to Suzanne Ackerman, an EPA spokeswoman, the EPA has ordered its scientists and regulators not to speak about perchlorate pending the results of this study.

The gag order prevented EPA scientists from commenting or elaborating on the two lettuce studies. They show that lettuce, available in U.S. supermarkets, appears to absorb and concentrate perchlorate from polluted irrigation water in significant amounts.

Using private funding, the Environmental Working Group in Oakland, Calif., paid Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, to test 22 lettuce samples purchased in January and February in the San Francisco Bay area. It chose the winter months when nearly 90 percent of the nation's winter lettuce supply is grown in Southern California and Arizona with perchlorate-tainted irrigation water from the Colorado River.

Four of the 22 samples tested were found to contain perchlorate in excess of 30 parts per billion. One sample of mixed organic baby greens, registered 121 parts per billion. The group concluded that 1.6 million US women of childbearing age are exposed daily to more of this chemical from just winter lettuce than the EPA's recommended safe dose.

The questions are then, what other vegetables are tainted with perchlorate? And what is our space program doing to the long range health of the human race?