Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Baby

Font Size

Toxic Chemical Found in Breast, Cow's Milk

Perchlorate May Be More Widespread Than Thought, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News

Feb. 24, 2005 - A toxic chemical found in rocket fuel is present in both cow's milk and human breast milk at levels that could cause harm, research shows.

Investigators found high levels of the chemical perchlorate in 46 of 47 store-bought milk samples from 11 states. And 36 samples of human breast milk tested from a randomly selected group of women living in 18 states contained even higher levels.

The findings suggest that the chemical may be more widespread than has been believed, researchers say. Perchlorate has been found in drinking water from 35 states and occurs naturally at very low levels in the environment.

"We have known that perchlorate is present in cow's milk, but this is the first study to look at breast milk," Texas Tech University researcher Sandy K. Dasgupta, PhD, tells WebMD.

In the Texas Tech University study, the average perchlorate concentration in breast milk was approximately 10 micrograms per liter. That was roughly five times higher than the average amount found in cow's milk (2.0 micrograms per liter).

No national standards exist on safe perchlorate levels, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suggested a limit of 0.7 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day.

If, for example, a 9-pound baby drinks 24 ounces (0.7 liters) of milk containing perchlorate amounts found in the study, it will drink more than twice the suggested limit.

Perchlorate can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones by preventing the thyroid gland from absorbing iodine, an essential component of these hormones. In a pregnant woman, this can lead to developmental problems in the fetus.

It is not yet clear, however, whether perchlorate poses a significant risk to human health at current exposure levels.

In a controversial report issued last month, a panel of experts advising the National Research Council concluded that perchlorate is safe for human consumption at much higher levelsperchlorate is safe for human consumption at much higher levels than had been believed.

The panel set safe exposures at 20 times the levels that had been suggested by the EPA.

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

Today on WebMD

mother on phone holding baby
When you should call 911.
parents and baby
Unexpected ways your life will change.
baby acne
What’s normal – and what’s not.
baby asleep on moms shoulder
Help your baby get the sleep he needs.

mother holding baby at night
mother with sick child
Chinese mother breast feeding newborn baby girl
Track Your Babys Vaccines
Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
Woman holding feet up to camera
Father kissing newborn baby
baby gear slideshow