Perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel, flares, and fireworks, has long been on regulatory radar as a potential drinking water contaminant. New information on just how harmful the substance can be may come to influence that conversation.
“In pregnant women, frequent exposure [to perchlorate] may decrease levels of a thyroid hormone, called T4, that’s necessary for fetal brain development, potentially leading to developmental issues after birth,” reported Time. “While more research is necessary to determine the long-term effects of T4 deficiency, [a new] study’s authors say the findings suggest that pregnant women may want to be extra cautious about perchlorate exposure.”
The study that led to the Time report was presented at the U.K.’s annual Society for Endocrinology conference.
It looked at “perchlorate exposure of 308 women from southwest England in their third trimester of pregnancy,” per the Environmental Working Group. “Higher levels of perchlorate in their urine were associated with lower levels of the thyroid hormone T4, which is essential for fetal brain development.”
While perchlorate is a potential contaminant requiring regulation from the U.S. EPA, the agency is still collecting public input before moving any further, according to Time, and currently only recommends a 15 ppb limit. There are currently no formal limits that drinking water treatment plants must adhere to. For those concerned with their consumption of the substance, there are some personal steps to take.
“Pregnant women and infants must get adequate iodine, the FDA says,” per Time. “If you live in an area where tap water is known to exceed the EPA’s interim advisory of 15 parts per billion, the FDA also recommends using bottled water to prepare infant formula.”
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Image credit: "Pregnant woman," Daniela Mazzarino, 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/