What Is Perchlorate? 7 Shocking Facts

Dr. Group
by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on

Perchlorate is one of the ingredients used to make rocket fuel

With similarities to toxins like bromine, fluorine, and radioactive iodine, perchlorate has gained a lot of attention in recent years. It’s a chemical commonly used in rocket fuel, explosives, fireworks, batteries, bleaches, fertilizers, and airbags; and that barely scratches the surface. Perchlorate has completely proliferated the environment and the health consequences are disastrous. The following facts about perchlorate will shock you and give you strong reason to take the necessary steps to protect your health.

1. Perchlorate is Absolutely a Known Toxin

By all accounts, perchlorate is a horrible toxin to human health and it’s absolute poison to the environment. According to the EPA, perchlorate is detrimental to the thyroid gland, metabolism, and hormonal balance. [1] The California Department of Toxic Substances Control classifies perchlorate as a toxin that seriously threatens the environment and human health. [2]

2. Perchlorate Exposure is Very Common

As a result of rampant industrial pollution, perchlorate has thoroughly contaminated the environment. Lakes, groundwater, tap water, and bottled water have all shown high levels of perchlorate. [3] Environmental pollution seeps directly into the food supply; research shows that the food we eat and the water we drink can be extremely contaminated with perchlorate. [4] Industry fat cats might tell you that it’s “trace” exposure and “not harmful”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Harmful health effects can emerge even from minute exposure. But that doesn’t even matter since we’re well past that point. Contamination has been reported in 49 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. [5]

3. Perchlorate is Poison to the Thyroid

Thyroid gland receptors are especially vulnerable to halogens. If we’re talking about iodine, this is good. If we’re talking about fluorine, bromine, and chlorine, it’s bad. Unfortunately, perchlorate is chemically similar to the harmful halogens and interferes with thyroid function in similar fashion. [6] In fact, because of perchlorate’s limiting effect on the thyroid, it’s even been used to treat an overactive thyroid. [7] According to an article in the American Thyroid Association’s monthly journal, exposure to perchlorate significantly increases the likelihood of developing autoimmune thyroid disease. [8]

4. Children and Pregnant Women are Especially Vulnerable

When perchlorate interferes with iodine absorption and utilization, iodine deficiency can result. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy is known to increase the risk of having a child with mental retardation and stunted growth. [9] Although the United States and Canada have “iodine fortification programs” in place, one study has found that iodine deficiency among pregnant mothers is still common. [10] Women need to be aware of this, as sometimes iodine deficiency causes less apparent early childhood issues like developmental delays and reading problems. [11]

5. Breastfeeding Women Ought to Take Notice

Recent research has noted that breastfeeding women and their babies have a much higher vulnerability to perchlorate than previously thought. Drinking water is only one of many sources of perchlorate exposure that can eventually contaminate breast milk. In fact, research shows perchlorate levels in breast milk are unacceptably high. [12] While using infant formula instead may sound helpful, formula-fed infants also show noticeable levels of perchlorate. [13] [14]

6. The Work Place May Not be a Safe Place

Individuals who work with chemicals containing perchlorate typically have higher levels of the chemical in blood and urine samples. How does this affect their health? In addition to what we already discussed — high blood pressure, reduced lung function, and skin irritation are all common complaints. Additionally, T3 hormone levels (responsible for metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, and development) are often significantly lower. [15]

7. Getting Enough Iodine May Be the Best Defense

Individuals who do not get enough iodine often experience increased effects from perchlorate, even at very low levels of exposure. Without adequate iodine, perchlorate can easily bind to thyroid receptors. [17] As noted by researchers, this can lead to reduced thyroid function and thyroid disease.

Protect Yourself

The ugly truth is that perchlorate contamination is everywhere and avoiding this chemical can be difficult. Proactive defense is the best plan of action. If you’re not drinking purified water, start. If you’re not consuming organic foods, now is the time to begin (even though it’s not a total safeguard). Periodic chemical and toxic metal cleansing, along with supplemental iodine, can also be helpful.

Are you actively on the offense against perchlorate? What steps do you take? Please leave a comment below and share your experience with us.

References (16)
  1. EPA. Perchlorate. (last accessed 2013-03-20)
  2. California Department of Toxic Substances. Perchlorate. (last accessed 2013-03-20)
  3. Wu Q, Zhang T, Sun H, Kannan K. Perchlorate in tap water, groundwater, surface waters, and bottled water from China and its association with other inorganic anions and with disinfection byproducts. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2010 Apr;58(3):543-50. doi: 10.1007/s00244-010-9485-6. Epub 2010 Feb 17.
  4. Lau FK, deCastro BR, Mills-Herring L, Tao L, Valentin-Blasini L, Alwis KU, Blount BC. Urinary perchlorate as a measure of dietary and drinking water exposure in a representative sample of the United States population 2001-2008. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2013 Mar;23(2):207-14. doi: 10.1038/jes.2012.108. Epub 2012 Nov 28.
  5. EPA. Contaminated Site Clean-Up Information: Perchlorate. (last accessed 2013-03-20)
  6. Steinmaus C, Miller MD, Cushing L, Blount BC, Smith AH. Combined effects of perchlorate, thiocyanate, and iodine on thyroid function in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007-08. Environ Res. 2013 May;123:17-24. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2013.01.005. Epub 2013 Mar 7.
  7. Leung AM, Pearce EN, Braverman LE. Perchlorate, iodine and the thyroid. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Feb;24(1):133-41. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2009.08.009.
  8. Brent GA. Environmental exposures and autoimmune thyroid disease. Thyroid. 2010 Jul;20(7):755-61. doi: 10.1089/thy.2010.1636.
  9. Melse-Boonstra A, Mackenzie I. Iodine deficiency, thyroid function and hearing deficit: a review. Nutr Res Rev. 2013 Dec;26(2):110-7. doi: 10.1017/S0954422413000061. Epub 2013 Jun 12.
  10. Swanson CA, Pearce EN. Iodine insufficiency: a global health problem? Adv Nutr. 2013 Sep 1;4(5):533-5. doi: 10.3945/an.113.004192.
  11. Bath SC, Steer CD, Golding J, Emmett P, Rayman MP. Effect of inadequate iodine status in UK pregnant women on cognitive outcomes in their children: results from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Lancet. 2013 Jul 27;382(9889):331-7. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60436-5. Epub 2013 May 22.
  12. Kirk AB, Kroll M, Dyke JV, Ohira S, Dias RA, Dasgupta PK. Perchlorate, iodine supplements, iodized salt and breast milk iodine content. Sci Total Environ. 2012 Mar 15;420:73-8. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.01.045. Epub 2012 Feb 13.
  13. Shelor CP, Kirk AB, Dasgupta PK, Kroll M, Campbell CA, Choudhary PK. Breastfed infants metabolize perchlorate. Environ Sci Technol. 2012 May 1;46(9):5151-9. doi: 10.1021/es2042806. Epub 2012 Apr 20.
  14. Kirk AB, Dyke JV, Ohira S, Dasgupta PK. Relative source contributions for perchlorate exposures in a lactating human cohort. Sci Total Environ. 2013 Jan 15;443:939-43. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.11.072. Epub 2012 Dec 18.
  15. Chen HX, Shao YP, Wu FH, Li YP, Peng KL. [Health survey of plant workers for an occupational exposure to ammonium perchlorate]. Zhonghua Lao Dong Wei Sheng Zhi Ye Bing Za Zhi. 2013 Jan;31(1):45-7.
  16. Lumen A, Mattie DR, Fisher JW. Evaluation of perturbations in serum thyroid hormones during human pregnancy due to dietary iodide and perchlorate exposure using a biologically based dose-response model. Toxicol Sci. 2013 Jun;133(2):320-41. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kft078. Epub 2013 Mar 27.

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