The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reportedly decided that it will regulate perchlorate, a man-made and naturally occurring chemical used in rocket fuel, explosives and fireworks. While it has not yet established an exposure limit, EPA’s Office of Water sent the Office of Management & Budget a draft notice for its review, outlining EPA’s decision to regulate the chemical by setting a maximum contaminant level under the Safe Drinking Water Act, said a news source.  

The Food and Drug Administration has found perchlorate in a number of foods, most notably spinach, lettuce and tomatoes, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently reported that it is widespread. GAO notes that the chemical “can disrupt the uptake of iodide in the thyroid, potentially interfering with thyroid function and negatively affecting fetal and infant brain development and growth.”  

According to a press report, EPA’s decision could pose a challenge to chemical and aerospace companies that may be liable for a massive cleanup, as well as for water companies which may have to meet any standard set. The Department of Defense could also be affected. Because EPA must establish standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act low enough to offset exposures from other sources, such as food, some agency observers apparently expect that the maximum concentration level could be stricter than EPA’s current cleanup target of 15 parts per billion. See Inside EPA, September 30, 2010.