Latest EPA Rollback Would Allow Rocket Fuel In Drinking Water

June 30, 2020

As the EPA continues to dismantle its own regulations, we’ve become used to seeing outrageous headlines from allowing drilling in protected areas in Alaska to lowering auto-emission standards. Following this latest rollback, your tap water may be contaminated with rocket fuel.

Perchlorate is a chemical often found in rocket fuel, explosives, fireworks, and flares. It also occurs naturally in arid climates and in some nitrate deposits. According to the FDA, high exposure to perchlorate can disrupt iodine absorption, which then disrupts thyroid function. Thyroid function is critical for mothers and growing fetuses. The hormones produced by the thyroid are essential for brain development. With iodine absorption interrupted, the thyroid isn’t able to effectively produce hormones, which can then inhibit the development of a fetal brain, as explained in this study from NCBI.

In 2011, the EPA found that between 5 to 16 million people in the United States are exposed to dangerous levels of perchlorate. This means levels that could potentially cause the adverse effects listed above. However, at the time of this finding, nothing was done about perchlorate on a federal level. In 2016, the National Defense Resources Council sued for the regulatory delay, which led to a court order for regulation in 2018. After this order, the EPA kept requesting more extensions on the matter until it was decided that they have to release published standards by June of this year. On June 18th, the EPA blatantly ignored the people’s concerns and the court order and announced that they will not be regulating perchlorate levels in the United States’ drinking water.

Despite the 2011 study that was released, the EPA is now saying that the levels of perchlorate found in water supplies are not high enough to justify regulations. Fortunately, some state governments have already taken the initiative to put in place their own regulations. I encourage you to do your own research and find out if your state has regulations in place. Colorado, where I live, does not currently regulate perchlorate. I plan to write a letter, leave a voicemail, and email my state representative to request regulation. I also recommend getting your water tested. Although I could not find an at-home test, many local water companies will offer free water testing or charge a small fee for more detailed analyses.

This lack of regulation from the EPA means that the FDA is not required to release standards on bottled water either. In 2010, a Government Accountability Office study found perchlorate in water, soil, or sediment in 45 states. Andrew Wheeler, the EPA administrator, said that this decision “is built on science and local success stories and fulfills President Trump’s promise to pare back burdensome ‘one-size-fits-all’ overregulation for the American people.”

These decisions made by the Trump administration are incredibly disappointing, and could potentially cost future generations their brain health. This raises the question if a chemical found in rocket fuel is being ignored by federal agencies, what other compounds found in our water supplies are being ignored? According to Andrew Wheeler, there is no need to worry as state governments have a handle on water quality, but clearly, not all states have taken this step. State elections are happening all over the nation this year, and our national election is coming up soon, make sure who you vote for stands up for clean water. It’s time to take our health out of the government’s hands.


Photo: SpaceX on Unsplash

Iga is a freelance writer based in Colorado, but originally from Poland. She follows the vegan, sustainability and zero-waste movements while trying to live a practical lifestyle! When she’s not writing she likes to practice yoga, read, play with her dogs and just be outside in nature. You can find more of her work at her website


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