News Feature | May 24, 2017

Arizonians' Thyroid Problems May Be Linked To Perchlorate In Drinking Water

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

arizona1 reg new

Perchlorate contamination of drinking water may be the source of thyroid problems among Arizona residents.

Arizona has more perchlorate contamination than most other states, according to KAWC. The Colorado River is contaminated with the chemical because it moves from an industrial facility in Henderson, NV, to groundwater to Lake Mead, which feeds the river.

“Northern Arizona University researchers have received a 200-thousand-dollar grant from the Flinn Foundation to study the contaminant’s effects on the Yuma population,” KAWC reported. Yuma County is in southwestern Arizona.

“The two-year study begins this week. Researchers will monitor 300 individuals, half of whom suffer from hypothyroidism. They will also be capturing and testing rats to compare their perchlorate levels,” the report said.

Northern Arizona University Professor of Ecotoxicology Frank von Hippel noted the difficulty of breaking down perchlorate.

“So once it gets into groundwater or drinking water supplies, it can last potentially for thousands of years. And it causes health disruption because it prevents iodide uptake at the thyroid gland,” he said, per KAWC.

In its perchlorate fact sheet, the U.S. EPA notes that the contaminant is highly soluble in water and migrates quickly from soil to groundwater. Various states have health-based goals or standards for limiting the contaminant in drinking water.

“Common treatment technologies include ion exchange, bioreactors and in situ bioremediation,” the agency explained.

Scientists are still learning about how dangerous this contaminant may be to public health. In another recent study, researchers reported on the extent to which perchlorate can affect thyroid function.

“Past research had suggested that in people, perchlorate might be linked to lower-than-normal levels of the thyroid hormone known as thyroxine. So [the researchers tested if they] could predict a person’s thyroxine levels based on how much perchlorate was in their body,” Science News For Students, reported, citing a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“And they could, they reported. What’s more, their data show for the first time that teens may be especially vulnerable to the pollutant’s effects,” the report said.

Science News provided some background on perchlorate.

“This chemical is used to make explosives, fireworks and rocket motors. The solid booster rocket on the space shuttle, for instance, contained a lot of perchlorate. Manufacturers also add the chemical to some food packaging,” the report said.

The report noted that perchlorate can enter the body through air, food, or water.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Atardecer en el Horseshoebend, Horseshoebend sunset.," Vicente Villamón © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: