Chemical and Material Risk Management Program

The Basics


What is perchlorate?

  • Perchlorate salts are colorless solids that readily dissolve in water. They are used in the production of flares, dyes, and paints. In addition, they occur naturally and are found in some imported fertilizers and household bleach.

What are the common uses of perchlorate?

  • Perchlorate is used in the production of fireworks, road flares, explosives, matches, and automotive air bags in addition to a number of military uses.

Why is perchlorate on the DoD Emerging Contaminants Action List?

  • Perchlorate has a number of critical DoD applications in missiles, rockets, and munitions. While DoD is working to reduce the use of perchlorate, some of DoD’s uses result in releases to the environment.
  • The National Academy of Sciences found that exposure to perchlorate may adversely affect the thyroid function of pregnant women, fetuses, and infants.
  • Perchlorate has been found in over 35 states prompting EPA and some states to take measures to address potential public health concerns.
  • Federal and state agencies continue to investigate sources and exposure routes for perchlorate; new evidence suggests that food, rather than drinking water, may be a significant source of exposure. The science regarding naturally-occurring and man-made perchlorate sources, exposure routes, toxicity, and ultimate environmental fate continues to evolve.
  • Perchlorate is by far the safest, most efficient, and stable propellant oxidizer available to federal agencies. Its stability and reliability are crucial for its safe storage, handling, and performance, ensuring force protection, safety, and military readiness.
  • In missile and rocket motors, perchlorate is embedded in a solid material that does not readily dissolve in water.

How is DoD managing the risk posed by perchlorate?

  • DoD is addressing perchlorate releases at installations and Formerly Used Defense Sites as part of its overall environmental restoration program. Response actions are taken, if necessary, as indicated by site-specific risk assessments performed in coordination with federal and state regulators.
  • Groundwater that is used for drinking is treated to remove perchlorate at the few DoD sites where it is found to pose a potential threat to public health.
  • DoD has a policy to sample for perchlorate at existing installations and Formerly Used Defense Sites in accordance with federal and state regulations. DoD has collected over 45,000 samples nationwide and, for the vast majority of sites, laboratory tests have not detected perchlorate in drinking water, groundwater, or soils at levels that pose risks to public health.
  • Recent surveys of DoD installations in California and Massachusetts have generally found levels well below EPA health-based guidelines.
  • EPA, other government agencies, water suppliers, and industry are also actively testing for the presence of perchlorate in drinking water, surface water, groundwater, soil, and food supplies.
  • DoD has spent over $114M on research regarding perchlorate treatment, substitutes, and detection methodologies.
  • DoD recently began using more environmentally-friendly substitute materials in training flares and munitions on Army training ranges. They account for an average of about 70% of the perchlorate used on ranges.

Where can I get more information?