BACKGROUND: Perchlorate is a common contaminant of drinking water and food. It competes with iodide for uptake into the thyroid, thus interfering with thyroid hormone production. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) set a groundwater preliminary remediation goal (PRG) of 24.5 [micro]g/L to prevent exposure of pregnant women that would affect the fetus. This does not account for the greater exposure that is possible in nursing infants or for the relative source contribution (RSC), a factor normally used to lower the PRG due to nonwater exposures.
OBJECTIVES: Our goal was to assess whether the OSWER PRG protects infants against exposures from breast-feeding, and to evaluate the perchlorate RSC.
METHODS: We used Monte Carlo analysis to simulate nursing infant exposures associated with the OSWER PRG when combined with background perchlorate.
RESULTS: The PRG can lead to a 7-fold increase in breast milk concentration, causing 90% of nursing infants to exceed the reference dose (RfD) (average exceedance, 2.8-fold). Drinking-water perchlorate must be < 6.9 [micro]g/L to keep the median, and < 1.3 [micro]g/L to keep the 90th-percentile nursing infant exposure below the RfD. This is 3.6- to 19-fold below the PRG. Analysis of biomonitoring data suggests an RSC of 0.7 for pregnant women and of 0.2 for nursing infants. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that the RfD itself needs to be reevaluated because of hormonal effects in the general population.
CONCLUSIONS: The OSWER PRG for perchlorate can be improved by considering infant exposures, by incorporating an RSC, and by being responsive to any changes in the RfD resulting from the new CDC data.
KEY WORDS: drinking water, neurodevelopment, nursing infants, perchlorate, PRG, thyroid hormone. Environ Health Perspect 115:361-369 (2007). doi:10.1289/ehp.9533 available via http://dx.doi.org/ [Online 11 December 2006]
Perchlorate is a powerful oxidant that is used in rocket fuel, munitions, blasting operations, and fireworks [National Research Council (NRC) 2005]. Environmental contamination has occurred at military installations, at facilities that make perchlorate, and at various construction sites from the blasting of bedrock to build roads or homes. In addition, there are natural sources of perchlorate such as fertilizer produced in certain regions (e.g., Chilean nitrate), evaporite soils, and atmospheric sources (Dasgupta et al. 2005; Orris et al. 2003). Its high water solubility and environmental persistence have led to contamination of groundwater, with detection increasing in recent years as analytical methods have improved [Government Accountability Office (GAO) 2005]. There are no federal drinking water standards for perchlorate, although a number of states have recently developed or proposed values in the 2-6 [micro]g/L range [Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) 2006; New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute 2005; Ting et al. 2006]. These drinking-water targets are intended to prevent perchlorate's neurodevelopmental effects resulting from its antithyroid action.
Perchlorate can impair thyroid function by inhibiting the uptake of iodide, thereby reducing the amount of iodide stored in the thyroid and available for hormone production (NRC 2005; Ting et al. 2006). In those who...