R is for Rocket, and P is for Perchlorate


If you like hard sf, here’s a hard truth about rockets. Solid rocket fuel has a nifty compound in it called perchlorate. Wherever you have rockets, you have perchlorate contamination. So what, you might ask? It gets into groundwater, and then it migrates. Who might care about this? People living in Southern California subdivisions, for one.

Technically, we should have laws and standards to control perchlorate contamination. But here’s a nifty report from the Environmental Working Group that shows that we’re setting standards that are dangerously low for certain vulnerable populations… like pregnant women.

…exposure to the rocket fuel contaminant perchlorate in food or water can cause a significant and dose dependent decline in thyroid hormone levels. Low thyroid levels, or subclinical hypothyroidism, is an established risk factor in fetal development and can cause IQ deficits, developmental delays, and in severe cases, cretinism.

As fun as it is to see Richard Branson talk about commercializing space flight, I’d be more excited if we spent a little more time dealing with these ancillary consequences of getting our rockets off.