Imagine a chemical that is released quite readily into the surrounding air, and is highly soluble in water, so it can contaminate food and drinking water easily, and is readily absorbed into the human body. Imagine this chemical can cause can cause severe problems with the endocrine system, (particularly the thyroid), the cardiovascular system, the lungs, the kidneys, the digestive tract, the liver, the blood, the nervous system, the bones, the reproductive system, birth defects, and even cancer. What if this chemical had been detected at 284 Department of Defense sites from 1997 to 2009?
As you may have guessed, this is not a hypothetical chemical. Perchlorate is nearly ubiquitous on military bases, especially those that deal heavily in rockets.
The California EPA believes that 6 parts per billion (ppb) is the maximum level of perchlorates in drinking water that pose a health risk for humans. It found levels of perchlorates at Edwards Air Force base of 160,000 parts per billion. That’s 26,000 times the recommended level. Many military bases, munitions manufacturing plants, and missile ranges have similarly high levels of perchlorate. The Air Force has estimated that it would take over 1000 years to decontaminate many of these sites to completely remove all of the perchlorate in the groundwater.
Perchlorate inhibits the thyroid gland’s ability to take in iodine. Iodine is essential for proper functioning of the thyroid, and dysfunction of the thyroid can lead to all of the above problems. The thyroid is an important regulator of many of your body’s functions, and dysfunction in the thyroid can lead to a “cascading effect,” causing many other systems to fail. In the past, we’ve written about other toxins that can cause thyroid dysfunction, such as toluene, bisphenol-A, radiation, Oil Well Fires, and Agent Orange. We’ve even noted that PTSD sufferers have been shown to be 8 times as likely to have thyroid problems! All of these can be related to military service, so it is unsurprising that we see so many veterans with thyroid problems, and the many disabilities that can be secondary to thyroid dysfunction.
If you are suffering from thyroid dysfunction, it is important to note all of the places you were stationed, and perform some research to determine if perchlorates or other toxic chemicals have been found at the sites. Then, determine whether other disorders may be related to your thyroid dysfunction. It may be the case that your thyroid dysfunction is the result of exposure to toxins such as perchlorate during service, and that your other disabilities are secondary to this thyroid dysfunction.