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New Study Suggests Perchlorate Effects on Thyroid Function of U.S. Women

Early last year, a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel concluded its review of research on the health effects of perchlorate, an inorganic anion and component of rocket// fuel known to inhibit the thyroid’s ability to absorb iodine from the bloodstream, by recommending a new reference dose. The NAS also called for further research to identify safe exposure levels for sensitive subpopulations. Now, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released findings showing that American women, particularly those with low iodine intake, may have reduced thyroid function due to perchlorate exposure. Similar thyroid function changes were not found for men.

Perchlorate’s main use is as an oxidizer in solid rocket fuels. Other uses include explosives, road flares, and pyrotechnics, and the chemical can also form naturally in the atmosphere. A combination of these sources has led to the widespread presence of perchlorate in groundwater, drinking water, and foods including milk, vegetables, fruit, grain, and forage crops. Large doses of perchlorate have been shown to inhibit iodide uptake and reduce thyroid hormone production. Prolonged reduction in thyroid hormone can cause metabolic problems in adults and abnormal neurodevelopment during gestation and infancy.

The researchers examined 2,299 men and women, aged 12 and older, who participated in the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during 2001–2002. Examining the relationship between perchlorate concentrations in urine and concentrations of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in blood, researchers observed that perchlorate was a significant predictor of thyroid hormone levels in women, but not in men.

After seeing evidence of this gender difference, the authors focused their analysis on women. They categorized a total of 1,111 women into higher-iodine and lower-iodine groups using a cutpoint o
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