The explosion of a rocket fuel plant 17 years ago released perchlorate, a toxic and explosive chemical used in rocket fuel, into the environment in Henderson, Nevada. Perchlorate was recently found in milk and lettuce samples from 15 states. Most of the samples came from California, Nevada and Arizona. The link: the chemical released by the explosion continues to flow into Lake Mead, the lake behind Hoover Dam, at an estimated rate of 500 pounds per day. The lake water is released to the lower Colorado River and used to irrigate crops eaten by humans and livestock.
"FDA researchers say perchlorate at high doses disrupts thyroid gland functions. The biggest risks are to children and fetuses. Results include delayed development, mental retardation, hearing loss and motor skills impairment. Chronic lowering of thyroid hormones due to high perchlorate exposure may also result in thyroid tumors," according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The contamination in lettuce and milk was in the parts per billion range. The effects of persistent low-level exposure aren't known.
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