Environmental Contamination: Department of Defense Activities Related to Trichloroethylene, Perchlorate, and Other Emerging Contaminants

GAO-07-1042T Published: Jul 12, 2007. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 2007.
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DOD defines emerging contaminants as chemicals or materials with (1) perceived or real threat to health or the environment and (2) lack of published standards or a standard that is evolving or being reevaluated. Two emerging contaminants--trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchlorate--are of particular concern to DOD because they have significant potential to impact people or DOD's mission. TCE, a degreasing agent in metal cleaning which has been used widely in DOD industrial and maintenance processes, has been documented at low exposure levels to cause headaches and difficulty concentrating. High-level exposure may cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, unconsciousness, cancer, and possibly death. Similarly, perchlorate has been used by DOD, NASA, and others in making, testing, and firing missiles and rockets. It has been widely found in groundwater, surface water, and soil across the United States, Perchlorate health studies have documented particular risks to fetuses of pregnant women. GAO was asked for testimony to summarize its past work on perchlorate-, TCE-, and defense-activities related to (1) the state of knowledge about the emerging contaminants TCE and perchlorate, (2) DOD responsibilities for managing TCE and perchlorate contamination at its facilities, and (3) DOD activities to address TCE and perchlorate contamination.

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