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Toxic chemical found in U.S. food samples

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ROCKVILLE, Md., Dec 01, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- A U.S. Food and Drug Administration study shows a toxic chemical found in nature and used in rocket fuel has come up in tests on lettuce and milk samples.

The non-profit investigative organization Environmental Working group said perchlorate, which can cause thyroid problems and birth defects, was found in 217 of 232 samples of lettuce and milk in 15 states.

FDA's report is available on its Web site and the agency's position is that the data are limited, more testing is being done and consumers should not change their dietary habits until more details are known.

FDA said perchlorate occurs naturally -- in nitrate fertilizer deposits in Chile -- and is man-made mainly for use in solid rocket propellants. It also is used for fireworks and other explosives, tanning leather, rubber manufacturing and paints.

The Environmental Protection Agency's risk assessment, the Environmental Working Group reported, says exposure to the chemical should not exceed 1 part per billion in drinking water -- the same level adopted by Massachusetts. Health officials in California set a preliminary safety standard of 6 ppb.

In milk samples tested, the average concentration of perchlorate was 5.76 ppb and more than 38 percent exceeded 6 ppb. In lettuce, the average concentration was 10.49 ppb and about 60 percent of samples were above 6 ppb.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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