The rocket fuel in powdered baby formula is ‘safe,’ according to Haley Curtis Stevens, spokesperson for the International Formula Council, which represents the infant formula industry. Stevens says the recently published study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that disclosed finding traces of perchlorate in powdered baby formula provides no data on any adverse health effects that might develop from feeding these formulas to a baby.
The CDC published the report last month and it does not contain any information at all on the ill effects of consuming rocket fueled baby formula, other than to say safe levels of the chemical might exceed the limit considered safe for adults if it is mixed with water that also contains perchlorate. The study merely identified the presence of perchlorate in an assortment of powdered baby formulas that it did not mention by name. The study gained public attention once an advocacy group, the Environmental Working Group, called attention to it on Thursday by means of a press release.
When the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted recent tests of almost 4,000 public water supply systems servicing populations of 10,000 or more, approximately 160 of them contained perchlorate in detectable levels. The EPA is considering raising the safe limit of perchlorate in the public water supply and, under the proposed new standards, 31 of the water supplies tested would have exceeded the safe limit. Water supplies most affected by perchlorate contamination occur near sites associated with the defense and aerospace industries.
Several states have established their own safe levels of perchlorate in drinking water, independent of federal standards.
Scientific evidence indicates perchlorate impacts thyroid function although no tests on perchlorate have proven the chemical causes health problems. The thyroid regulates metabolism and problems can affect brain development in fetuses and infants.
Infant formulas are required by law to contain iodine, which can counteract the effects of perchlorate, making it difficult to assess risk. A child’s risk is also dependent upon his or her size and quantity of formula consumed. Even the formula itself can be a factor; the CDC study found formulas based on cow’s milk contain higher levels of perchlorate than others.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aware of the controversy but has issued no recommendations that anyone change diet or eating habits based on the possibility of perchlorate contamination.