Toxic Chemical Found in State's Cows' Milk

From: Robina Suwol
Date: 23 Jun 2004
Time: 18:30:06
Remote Name:


June 22, 2004 
Top Topic: Water Quality  
Toxic Chemical Found in State's Cows' Milk
Associated Press - 6/21/04
SAN FRANCISCO - Young children and pregnant women who drink milk from California cows may be exposed to an unsafe level of a toxic chemical used in rocket fuel, according to a new study.

The study released today by the Environmental Working Group comes as state and federal regulators prepare new standards to regulate perchlorate, the explosive ingredient in missile fuel that has been linked to thyroid damage.

"Perchlorate exposure is more widespread than we have been led to believe," said Bill Walker, vice president for the Environmental Working Group's West Coast office. "We hope that state and federal regulators will look at this information and take it into account when setting perchlorate standards."

He said the group is not calling for Californians to stop drinking milk or feeding it to their children, but does advocate tougher chemical standards.

Perchlorate has been found in drinking water in more than 20 states, including California, which has extensive ties to the military, defense industry and space program. The chemical has been detected in the Colorado River, the major source of drinking water and irrigation in Southern California and Arizona.

Researchers are divided about the health effects of perchlorate and what exposure levels are safe.

In March, state health officials concluded that perchlorate could be dangerous at levels above 6 parts per billion in drinking water, which could be used later this year to set the nation's first state standard. But U.S. EPA officials, and some environmental groups, say that standard is too weak.

A recent study by UC Irvine found that healthy adults were not harmed by levels as high as 100 ppb. But the study did not draw conclusions about perchlorate's impact on pregnant women, children and infants, whose mental development could be harmed by the chemical.

The new study on milk was based on laboratory tests the Environmental Working Group commissioned, as well as unreleased tests by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The environmental group's tests, conducted by researchers at Texas Tech University, found the chemical in 31 of 32 samples from milk purchased at grocery stores in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The average level of the chemical was 1.3 parts per billion, above the 1 ppb considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The state tests found an average level of 5.8 ppb of perchlorate in the 34 samples it tested from milk silos in Alameda, Sacramento and San Joaquin counties.

State officials confirmed the test results, but said the tests were not part of a public health study. Spokesman Steve Lyle said the findings did not show any need for consumers to drink less milk.

"At this point, there is not enough information to suggest that eating foods with low levels of perchlorate poses a significant health concern," Lyle said. "It is recommended that Californians continue to consume milk as part of a balanced diet."

The Environmental Working Group study did not determine how the chemical ended up in cow's milk, but perchlorate has been found in many of the state's water sources, which are used to irrigate farmland and grow crops fed to cows.#

Last changed: March 14, 2006