EPA will not set limit on perchlorate

May 20, 2020

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not set a limit on a chemical used in rocket fuel that has been associated with brain damage, according to news reports on May 14. However, the agency said it has not made a final decision on the rule.

In May 2019, the EPA proposed limits for perchlorate in drinking water that critics said were “10 to 50 times higher than what experts recommend,” according to an article in the Hill.

The New York Times reports a court order required the EPA to set a new perchlorate standard by June, but the agency will instead send a rule to the Office of Management and Budget contending any regulation of the substance is unnecessary.

The EPA said it has not yet decided how to proceed with regulating perchlorate.

An earlier proposal from the EPA suggested the maximum contaminant level (MCL) be set at 56 parts per billion (ppb), up from the 15 ppb under the Obama administration.

Some states have set their own MCLs as low as 2 pbb. Perchlorate is used in rocket propellants, munitions, fireworks, airbags, matches, and flares. Perchlorate may occur naturally, particularly in arid regions, and is an impurity in hypochlorite solutions used for drinking water treatment and nitrate salts used to produce nitrate fertilizers, explosives, and other products.

Contamination has been found in water wells in 22 states, according to an article by NGWA in May 2019.

NGWA has a best suggested practice for treating perchlorate in residential well systems. In it, the BSP states “Ingestion of perchlorate affects iodine uptake by the human thyroid and thus thyroidal hormone production,” while adding “public health risk from perchlorate remains controversial.” It has also been reported perchlorate causes cognitive and physical damage to children.

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