Rocket Fuel Found In Infant Formula

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported that 15 brands of powdered infant formula are contaminated with perchlorate, a rocket fuel component detected in drinking water in 28 states and territories.

The two most contaminated brands, made from cow’s milk, accounted for 87 percent of the U.S. powdered formula market in 2000, the scientists said. The CDC scientists did not identify the formula brands they tested. The little-noticed CDC findings, published in the March 2009 edition of the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, raise new concerns about perchlorate pollution, a legacy of Cold War rocket and missile tests. Studies have established that the chemical is a potent thyroid toxin that may interfere with fetal and infant brain development (Kirk 2006). The CDC team warned that mixing perchlorate-tainted formula powder with tap water containing “even minimal amounts” of the chemical could boost the resulting mixture’s toxin content above the level the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers safe.

Concern about perchlorate pollution has intensified as a series of studies have found perchlorate in the urine of every American tested by the CDC and in breast milk (Blount et al 2006b, Pearce et al 2007).

In 2008, an EWG analysis found that toddlers were especially vulnerable to perchlorate exposure from contaminated food. Toddlers, who are growing rapidly, consume large amounts of food daily, relative to their size. Moreover, those who live in places like California and Texas, where high perchlorate levels have been measured in some drinking water supplies, are doubly exposed to perchlorate contamination.


EWG’s analysis was based on 2008 federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests that found almost 75 percent of food and beverage samples tainted with perchlorate, possibly from contaminated irrigation water (Murray et al 2008).

The new CDC study is the first to examine perchlorate exposure of infants fed powdered formula reconstituted with contaminated drinking water. The CDC team tested 15 brands of powdered infant formula in four categories: cow milk-based with lactose, cow milk-based lactose-free, soy-based and elemental.

“Perchlorate was found in all brands and types of infant formula tested,” the scientists said. The worst perchlorate contamination was found in formula based on cow’s milk with lactose.

The CDC team said that combining cow’s milk/lactose formula with water containing perchlorate at just 4 parts per billion (ppb) could cause 54 percent of infants consuming the mix to exceed EPA’s “safe” level. A CDC study in 2006 found that trace perchlorate exposure considerably below the EPA’s “safe” level (0.7 micrograms of perchlorate per kilogram of body weight per day, called the reference dose, or RfD) altered women’s thyroid hormone levels (Blount et al 2006a).

Perchlorate is a primary ingredient in propellant for rockets and missiles. Leakage from military bases and manufacturing sites,  have found the substance  in tap water, groundwater, surface water, and soil across the nation. Up to 40 million Americans may have perchlorate in their water supplies, according to one analysis of EPA data. The chemical has been detected in lettuce, milk, spinach, and human breast milk.



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