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Friday, April 3, 2009

Parents Have a Right To Know

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2009 at 8:20 PM

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No doubt you’ve already about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found perchlorate in various brands of baby formula. Perchlorate is a chemical used in rocket fuel.

     The AP article gave this bit of confusing information for parents of babies and infants to dwell on:


No tests have ever shown the chemical caused health problems, but scientists have said significant amounts of perchlorate can affect thyroid function. The thyroid helps set the body's metabolism. Thyroid problems can impact fetal and infant brain development.”


     So, is perchlorate safe? It’s hard to qualify, but, as one Tulane researcher puts it, the issue needs further examination, and the public has a right to know which brands of baby formula were found to contain the toxic chemical.


The CDC study wasn’t looking at health effects, but the government has examined this issue before. Perchlorate is also often found in found in tap water, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a number of years debated whether or not to regulate the chemical that millions of Americans have ingested by drinking water.

     Last year, the EPA, under pressure from the White House and the Pentagon, decided against regulation despite many EPA scientists advocating for regulating perchlorate. The reason? According to a Washington Post article, perchlorate contamination to water occurs from the improper disposal of it by chemical companies and military bases. To cleanup and regulate perchlorate could potentially cost billions of dollars, and defense contractors were threatening to sue the government for financial assistance if a cleanup was mandated.

     LuAnn White, director of the Tulane Center for Applied Environmental Public Health, says there is no clear line between safe and unsafe levels of perchlorate, which has been demonstrated to effect thyroid function. Studies have shown thyroid problems in babies can mean a loss of IQ and result in behavioral and perception problems.

     “Babies are very sensitive little things,” White points out. “You have to be much more careful with babies and pregnant women than you do with you or I.”

     White says there is no disputing that perchlorate does affect the thyroid, and that can be harmful. So far, the CDC hasn’t released the names of the baby formula brands that were found to contain perchlorate, and White says if she were a new mother, she would want to know.

     “Public disclosure never hurts,” White says. “The more people know, the more people will try to get it out of there.”



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