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Perchlorate: Occurrence Is Widespread but at Varying Levels; Federal Agencies Have Taken Some Actions to Respond to and Lessen Releases

GAO-10-769 Published: Aug 12, 2010. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 2010.
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Perchlorate is both a man-made and naturally occurring chemical. It is used in rocket fuel, explosives, fireworks, and other products. Naturally occurring perchlorate is produced through atmospheric processes and then settles on surface water or land. Perchlorate can disrupt the uptake of iodide in the thyroid, potentially interfering with thyroid function and negatively affecting fetal and infant brain development and growth. As of June 2010, there is no federal regulatory standard for perchlorate in drinking water, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has the authority to regulate contaminants in public drinking water systems, had not determined whether to establish one. The Department of Defense (DOD), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Department of Energy (DOE) are the primary federal users of perchlorate. GAO was asked to examine (1) what is known about the extent to which perchlorate occurs in the nation's water and food supply and its likely sources; (2) what actions DOD, NASA, and DOE have taken to respond to or lessen perchlorate releases; and (3) what actions states, such as California and Massachusetts, have taken to regulate perchlorate. To address these questions, GAO analyzed data from EPA, DOD, NASA, and DOE, reviewed agency documents, and interviewed federal and state officials, researchers, and others.

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