Blast Off: EPA Bans Rocket Fuel From Drinking Water

Sal holds a Political Science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.
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Gone are the days when Americans could enjoy a nice cold glass of drinking water laced with rocket fuel. (Photo: Scott Audette/Reuters)

February 2, 2011, will live in infamy as the day when Uncle Sam took away America’s right to drink water laced with perchlorate, or toxic rocket fuel.

It took eight years, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally set the first federal drinking-water standard for a rocket fuel ingredient that has been linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women and young children, reports the Associated Press.

Perchlorate has infiltrated 153 drinking-water sources in 26 states, according to the EPA. The standard could take up to two years to implement nationwide.

The toxic chemical leaches into groundwater via improper disposal at rocket testing sites, chemical plants, and military bases.

"As improved standards are developed and put in place, clean water technology innovators have an opportunity to create cutting edge solutions that will strengthen health protections and spark economic growth," said Lisa Jackson, director of the EPA.

According to the New York Times, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found the substance in more than half the foods it tested, and health researchers have discovered traces of it in samples of breast milk. Between 5 and 17 million Americans are exposed to the chemical, according to reports.

“EPA’s decision to regulate perchlorate will not only protect our health but reverses bad public policy that has put us at risk for years,” said Mae Wu, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said to the Times.

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