Some people have been kicking up an awful lot of fuss about the EPA’s decision to not regulate the amount of perchlorate found in drinking water. If you don’t track hazardous waste in the environment as obsessively as we do, perchlorate is an explosive used in rocket propellant and fireworks that has been detected in the water supplies of 35 states. It’s also shown up in leafy vegetables irrigated with Colorado River water, and in milk from California cows, indicating that perchlorate can disperse and concentrate itself in everything from the environment, to the food we eat, to our own bodies. No studies have yet been released on the chemical’s effect on aquatic life.

We have the Department of Defense to thank for the rocket fuel, according to congressional investigators. All that aerospace activity and missile testing over the last 50 years dumped an awful lot of this hazardous thyroid-disrupting chemicalinto the environment, but the EPA decided that there is no 'meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction' through stricter national regulation: 24.5 parts per billion of perchlorate in water is just dandy. Earthjustice, a nonprofit public interest law firm originally established by the Sierra Club disagrees, and is suing the EPA for caving under the pressure from the DoD and military contractors who would be required to clean up after themselves if national regulations were enacted.

Thank goodness the government is still watching out for us! Let’s take a minute to look at things from the DoD’s and EPA’s perspective: Perchlorate is really just a fancy word for rocket fuel, and the DoD is doing its part, with a little propellant, to put the pep back in our step.

Let’s think about this for a moment: Americans are falling behind the rest of the world in so many areas. We’re getting fatter and shorter by the year; the life expectancy in many parts of the country is dropping; even our math scores lag far behind those of other developed nations. Maybe a little rocket fuel is just the boost we need to put the US back on top.

After all, what do rockets do? They explode, make loud noises and bright lights, blow stuff up, even escape Earth’s gravitational pull and journey amongst the stars. Just think of the new world order that will come about when the inhabitants of the 35 states with perchlorate in their drinking water begin to exhibit these properties. No longer will fat Americans be the laughing stock of svelte, snooty Europeans and suspiciously tiny Chinese gymnasts. Our “enhanced” athletes will literally blow the competition out of the water. Heck, even Average Joe Six-Pack will be able to outrun an Ironman with a little perchlorate coursing through the ole cholesterol-clogged bloodstream.

America’s enemies would learn to toe the line pretty quick if they knew our soldiers were literally weapons of mass destruction. Imagine a fighting force actually capable of breaking orbit. Our perchlorate-strengthened military would soon be the envy of every fighting force on the planet. Petty dictators in impoverished nations will be begging us to send shipments of hazardous waste to taint their own water supplies. (Oh wait, we’re actually already doing that with our e-waste).

Blowing stuff up is a time-honored tradition of the American people. It’s in our national anthem (“The rockets’ red glare/the bombs bursting in air”), and everyone knows we put on a mean 4th of July fireworks display. And now, for the first in history, we can actually say that explosions are in our blood. Thank goodness we have the EPA to make us proud of being part perchlorate.

Sorry spin doctors, but we just don’t share your sugarcoated view of hazardous chemicals in the water. Earthjustice and the American people say you have to do better than this.

Story by Rachel Brown. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008. The story was added to

Copyright Environ Press 2008

What's the problem with perchlorate?
The "rockets' red glare" and the "bombs bursting in air" are now in our blood thanks to the EPA.