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Sunday, September 2, 2012 - 11:00pm

Contaminants Emerging As Threats

Federal environmental officials are coming up with rules on how to regulate a chemical called perchlorate.

It's one of many unregulated compounds in Georgia's environment.

Scientists met in Savannah recently to discuss the persistence of chemicals being called "emerging" threats.

It took the Environmental Protection Agency decades to decide to list perchlorate -- found in rocket fuel and explosives -- among chemicals needing regulation because it affects health.

Researchers who met here last week as part of the Georgia Environmental Conference say, there are hundreds of similar compounds -- concerning but lacking science to deem them dangerous.

University of Georgia agronomist Jack Huang says, chemicals like PFOA are linked with the Georgia carpet industry and found in Northwest Georgia rivers.

"Persistence is certainly one factor that caught our attention," Huang says. "Because if they're toxic, they'll be in the environment forever."

Design engineer Dora Chiang of the AECOM environmental practice in Atlanta says, some chemicals are put in products before they're fully understood.

"We have accumulated toxicity data but most of the time the data are not sufficient enough to be conclusive, to actually identify the health impact," Chiang says. "They are already released into our environment while our toxicity study is still evolving."

Nanochemicals, pharmeceuticals, hormones and common household chemicals all can stay in the water for long periods.
The E-P-A could issue a draft perchlorate regulation next year.