The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it will set the first-ever standard for perchlorate in drinking water, a move hailed by environmentalists that have pushed for limits for a decade.
Both a naturally-occurring substance and man-made chemical used in rocket fuel and explosives, perchlorate may affect the normal function of the thyroid, the EPA found. Agency monitoring data show more than 4% of public water systems have detected perchlorate, and that between 5 million and 17 million people may be drinking water containing perchlorate.
“Clean water is critical to the health and prosperity of every American community and a fundamental concern to every American family,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a press release. “Our decisions are based on extensive review of the best available science and the health needs of the American people.”
EPA has yet to set the actual limits for the chemical in water – that will come as rulemaking process gets underway.
Two states have already set their own standards. California adopted a drinking water standard of 6 parts per billion in 2007 and Massachusetts set a drinking water standard of 2 parts per billion in 2006.
The Natural Resources Defense Council called the EPA's move “huge news.”
“EPA's decision to regulate perchlorate will not only protect our health but reverses bad public policy that has put us at risk for years,” wrote NRDC attorney Mae Wu in a blog. "Those mostly responsible for all the perchlorate in our water, including the Department of Defense, have – until today – successfully stopped our government from doing anything about the contamination."
A 2010 Government Accountability Office report found the chemical was present in the water supplies of 45 states as well as in a range of foods.