Bringing Pollution Right to Your Table

Not only is pollution nasty and deadly, but it's also a spoiled-brat kind of substance that just won't stay put. You dump it over here and -- oops! -- it pops up over there, or way out that way...or maybe even in that bag of organic baby lettuces you just bought.

Indeed, organic baby lettuce is one of the surprising places that the Environmental Working Group recently found perchlorate, having run scientific tests on 22 types of lettuce being sold in California supermarkets. Perchlorate is not something you want to find in your salad or on your BLT. It's a rocket-fuel ingredient. It's known to cause brain damage and other health problems, especially in children, even when exposed only to trace amounts.

The tests found way more than traces, however -- one-fifth of the lettuces tested contained at least five times the amount of perchlorate that's considered safe.

How did perchlorate end up in our lettuce? It came from a former rocket-fuel factory located down at the tip of Nevada. The toxic chemical leached from the factory into the nearby Colorado River, which then carried it miles away through farmlands in Arizona and California -- where 70 percent of our country's winter lettuce is grown. The farmers draw their irrigation water from the contaminated Colorado, and the lettuce sucks up both the water and perchlorate. Then the lettuce is harvested and shipped hundreds of miles to supermarkets, where you buy it and take it into your home to serve to family -- unaware that it comes pre-dressed with toxic rocket fuel.

Pollution is like that -- it just keep going...ultimately into us. You'd think the powers that be would learn this lesson. Yet these geniuses are saying it's perfectly safe to dump high-level nuclear waste in Nevada, claiming that it's too far away to hurt us.

To learn more about perchlorate and lettuce, call the Working Group: 202-667-6982.

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