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ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS AND TOXIC CHEMICALS WHERE YOU LIVE, WORK, AND PLAY

Perchlorate

What is it?

Perchlorate is a manufactured chemical and colorless salt that is most commonly used in rocket fuel. There are high levels of perchlorate naturally in some areas such as the southwestern United States.

Perchlorate is used in munitions, fireworks, explosives, airbag initiators for vehicles, matches, signal flares, fertilizers, chlorine cleaners, and pool chlorination chemicals. Some chewing tobacco products contain perchlorates.

See also: Factories Abandoned Military Sites Brownfield Air Pollution Drinking Water Learning and Developmental Disabilities

Where is Perchlorate found?

  • Food and water – contaminated food and drinking water 
  • Air – emissions from fireworks, matches, flares, and some industries
  • Consumer products – chewing tobacco, fireworks, vehicle airbags, matches, signal flares, chlorine cleaners, and chlorination chemicals

How can I be exposed to Perchlorate?

Perchlorate commonly enter(s) the body through:

Eating
Ingestion (swallowing)
  • Eating food or drinking water or milk contaminated with perchlorate; chewing tobacco
Inhalation
Inhalation (breathing)
  • Breathing emissions from perchlorate-containing products, or factories that make them or test rockets
Touching
Skin contact
  • Touching products made with perchlorate, or contaminated soil

What happens when I am exposed to Perchlorate?

Perchlorate primarily affects the thyroid gland.

There is concern that people exposed to high levels of perchlorate for a long time may develop a low level of thyroid activity; the name of this medical condition is hypothyroidism.

Low levels of thyroid hormones in the blood may lead to adverse effects on:

  • Skin
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Pulmonary system
  • Kidneys
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Liver
  • Blood
  • Neuromuscular system
  • Nervous system
  • Skeleton
  • Male and female reproductive system
  • Numerous endocrine organs

Who is at risk for exposure to Perchlorate?

  • Consumers
    • Some food, water, milk, and consumer products may contain perchlorate.
  • Pregnant women and infants
    • Perchlorate can disrupt the thyroid function of a developing fetus or infant.
  • People who live near rocket manufacturing or testing facilities
    • Soil and groundwater may contain perchlorate.
  • People who chew tobacco
    • Some chewing tobacco products contain perchlorate

Reduce your risk

If you think your health has been affected by exposure to perchlorates, contact your health care professional. 

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals. For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

  • Do you use well water?
  • Do you live near a waste site or rocket manufacturing or testing facility?
  • Do you use products that contain perchlorate?
  • Do you chew tobacco?
  • Use bottled water if you think there may be perchlorates in your tap water.
  • Routinely test your well water for perchlorate.
  • If your well water has high levels of perchlorate, contact your local or state health agency or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for information on how to reduce your exposure.
  • Don’t ignite highway and marine signal flares, small fireworks, and matches in a closed environment, such as inside the house or garage.
  • If you chew tobacco, consider quitting.
  • Store highway and marine signal flares, small fireworks, and matches out of the reach of children. 
  • Don’t let children play in or eat dirt if you live near a waste site that contains perchlorates. 
  • Perchlorate (Food and Drug Administration)

    Information on perchlorate, and links to resources about perchlorate found in food.

  • ToxGuide for Perchlorate and Perchlorate Salts (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)

    Guide on perchlorate and perchlorate salts, including chemical and physical information, routes of exposure, and associated effects on human health.

  • Perchlorates. ToxFAQs. (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)

    Factsheet with answers to most frequently asked questions about perchlorate exposure and their effect on human health, developed by a federal public health agency that protects communities from harmful health effects related to exposure to natural and man-made hazardous substances.

  • Drinking Water Contaminants: Perchlorate (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)

    Information and links to peer review reports, technical fact sheets, and federal register notices on perchlorate, a drinking water contaminant that may have adverse health effects.

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