A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress has concluded that perchlorate, which interferes with iodine uptake and poses potential effects on fetal and infant brain development and growth, is ubiquitous in the nation’s water and food supply. The chemical is a product of both man-made processes, occurring in rocket fuel, explosives and fireworks, and atmospheric processes. It can be found in drinking water, ground water, surface water, soil, and sediment and has been detected in 74 percent of foods tested, with the highest levels in tomatoes and spinach.  

GAO was apparently asked to learn what is known about the extent of perchlorate in water and food supplies, its likely sources, actions federal agencies have taken to respond to or reduce perchlorate releases, and state regulatory actions. The report, titled “Perchlorate: Occurrence is Widespread but at Varying Levels; Federal Agencies Have Taken Some Actions to Respond to and Lessen Releases,” contains no recommendations.  

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which does not regulate the chemical but has issued an interim advisory guideline of 15 parts per billion, is reportedly considering alternative ways to address iodine deficiency. While Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and environmentalists have been seeking strict drinking water regulations, EPA is apparently looking to boost iodine levels in those most at risk. A spokesperson for the environmental group Clean Water Action was quoted as saying, “We utterly oppose a strategy of putting the onus on the public to take something to ‘protect against perchlorate exposure.’ Holding polluters accountable is the way to go.” See Inside EPA.com, September 15, 2010.