What are Perchlorates?

Perchlorates are water-soluble substances that are odorless and colorless. The most commonly manufactured perchlorate salts are:

  • Ammonium perchlorate
  • Lithium perchlorate
  • Magnesium perchlorate
  • Potassium perchlorate
  • Sodium perchlorate

Perchlorates are used in the creation of things such as fireworks, explosives and rocket motors—things that require very reactive chemicals. It is also used in making other kinds of chemicals. It was even used as medication many years ago for the treatment of hyperthyroidism. Perchlorates are also found in saltpeter deposits and are used in making fertilizers.

Perchlorates in the Environment

Perchlorates can be found in areas within and surrounding places where rockets are produced, tested and disassembled. Factories that make use of perchlorates may also cause the chemical to be released into the soil and water. Since perchlorates do not stay in the soil, it can get washed away and end up in groundwater. It is unknown how long exactly do perchlorates stay in the soil and water, but it stays for a very long time based on studies and information to date. There have also been food and milk where perchlorates have been found.

Perchlorate Exposure

There are several ways in which a person may be exposed to perchlorates:

  • Drinking perchlorate-contaminated water.
  • Consuming of food and drinks contaminated with perchlorates
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco products that contain perchlorates
  • Living near a waste-disposal or dump site
  • Living in areas where high volumes of chlorates are used and/or produced such as factories that produce rockets, fireworks, and other explosives.

Effects of Perchlorates on Health

The effects of perchlorate salts on health are due to perchlorate and not of the other elements such as ammonium, lithium, magnesium, potassium, etc.

Perchlorate prevents the thyroid gland from absorbing iodine, which is needed in the production of hormones to regulate different important bodily functions that involve major organs of the body such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, digestive tract, reproductive organs, and liver; as well as the skin bones and blood. It is believed that long-term exposure to perchlorates may result in hypothyroidism or low thyroid productivity, thus adversely affecting the person’s health.

Fortunately, health problems are not as likely when a person is exposed to low levels of perchlorate. In a study conducted on healthy volunteers, 35 milligrams of perchlorate were given to them every day for 14 days. Results showed that the subjects did not exhibit any health problem or abnormality in the thyroid. Studies on workers exposed to the same amount for several years also showed that the perchlorates did not adversely affect their thyroid, kidney, liver or blood.

Can Perchlorates Cause Cancer?

Although there has been no study on humans, it has been found that perchlorates caused thyroid cancer in mice and rats. In spite of these results, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded that the occurrence of perchlorate-induced cancer is less likely in humans since humans and rodents do not have the same biological makeup.

Perchlorates are also not classified as carcinogenic by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Perchlorates and Your Family

Perchlorates are unlikely present in an ordinary home. However, this doesn’t mean that families in such homes cannot be at risk of exposure—they may consume perchlorate in waters contaminated with the substance if they live close to sources of this substance. Drinking bottled water instead of the tap may reduce the risk of exposure to perchlorates.

If your home is located near possible sources of perchlorates, take the necessary precautions especially when children are involved. Because of their biological immaturity, their thyroids are more prone to be affected by perchlorates than adults. Do not let your kids play in the dirt, most especially putting anything with dirt in their mouth.

Perchlorate Detection

Perchlorates can be detected not through routine tests, but through special medical urine tests. Perchlorates are expelled by the body immediately that’s why the tests will only show recent exposure.

Federal Government Standards for Perchlorate

The EPA is determining if perchlorate regulation in drinking water will have any significant effect in reducing the risks of the chemical to the health of humans. The EPA has set the clean-up level of 24.5p ppb for perchlorates in water.

Legal Help with Perchlorate Exposure

If you or your loved one has been experiencing symptoms or health problems related to exposure to perchlorate, go to your medical health provider immediately. You may also want to consider working with an experienced lawyer especially if you have reason to believe that your exposure is from work or your home environment. Your attorney can provide more information and guidance on what steps you need to take to protect your rights and possibly get legal remedy for the injuries you suffered.

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