Perchlorate Contamination a Possible Byproduct of July 4th Fireworks

Local residents may remember, a few years back, when news broke regarding studies that found the drinking water for more than 20 million Americans is contaminated with a a component of rocket fuel. The chemical, perchlorate, “interferes with normal thyroid function, may cause cancer and persists indefinitely in the environment.” Several theories were put forward, for possible sources of perchlorate in so much of the country’s drinking water. A recent study has identified a surprising source: fireworks fired over bodies of water can result in heightened levels of perchlorate in that water.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), now lists perchlorate, a common fireworks ingredient, as a “contaminant of concern.”

Responsible local residents should take care when they launch fireworks over bodies of water and to clean up their fireworks displays before water can wash over the firework remains.

According to an EPA study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, fireworks heavily contribute to perchlorate contamination of surrounding water bodies. Although Richard Wilkin, the study’s lead author and an environmental geochemist at the U.S. EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory, says that his research establishes a direct link between firework displays and perchlorate water contamination, he adds that it also demonstrates the contaminant’s shortlivedness: concentrations fell to background levels after 1 to 2 months, possibly due to microbial degradation.

Some analysts point to studies indicating there are harmful health effects from even minute doses of perchlorate. These analysts argue that a national standard for perchlorate in drinking water should be no higher than one-tenth the level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency currently recommends as safe.

It is important to note that, here in the Griffin Area, groundwater sources are very close to the surface. A lot of our property acts as aquifer recharge for our own drinking water. It is conceivable that drinking water contamination could result from contamination of surface water.

Thurston County Solid Waste would like to remind residents the materials left over from a fireworks display go in the trash bin only. Please do not place them in the recycling bins. While some fireworks packing does indeed contain paper or cardboard, there are many other items attached that make it non-recyclable such as the shiny coatings, plastic bases or tubes, and explosive residuals. These other materials contaminate the recyclables.

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