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A Common Chemical May Be Unsafe for Pregnant Women and Babies. Here's What You Need to Know

From TIME - November 8, 2017

Exposure to a chemical called perchlorate may be unsafe for pregnant women and their unborn children, according to a new study.

Perchlorate, which is found in everything from fireworks to fertilizers, is a known hormone disruptor. In pregnant women, frequent exposure may decrease levels of a thyroid hormone, called T4, thats necessary for fetal brain development, potentially leading to developmental issues after birth, according to new research presented Monday at the annual Society for Endocrinology conference in the U.K. While more research is necessary to determine the long-term effects of T4 deficiency, the studys authors say the findings suggest that pregnant women may want to be extra cautious about perchlorate exposure.

Heres what you need to know about the health effects of perchlorate:

What is perchlorate?

Perchlorate occurs both naturally and as a result of manufacturing, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Its used as a fuel starter for rockets, weapons, fireworks, airbag initiators, matches and flares, and its also found in some fertilizers, disinfectants, food packaging and plant killers. Its often found in water supplies near where rocket fuel is made or used, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says, but it also appears in other locations around the country. Studies have shown that it turns up in everything from lettuce to milk to bottled water.

Is perchlorate dangerous?

Studies, including the one mentioned above, have shown that perchlorate can disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates hormone levels. At high doses, according to the EPA, the chemical impairs the thyroids ability to absorb iodine from the blood, in turn causing the gland to malfunction and potentially underproduce hormones involved in metabolism and infant and childhood development. Studies in fish have also linked the substance to impaired sexual development and function.

Is perchlorate regulated?

How can you minimize the risks of perchlorate?

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