Officials with the California Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that they may lower the drinking water health goal for the amount of a chemical that caused a water restriction for Barstow residents last November.

Officials issued a water restriction for Barstow residents last November after levels of perchlorates over the state drinking water standard were found in water that was being drawn from one of the Golden State Water Company's wells. The current standard for perchlorates is six parts per billion, but officials at the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which is part of the California EPA, are proposing to set a public health goal of one part per billion, due to concerns about the effect the chemical could have on infants.

OEHHA decided to change the goal because of new research that shows infants are more susceptible to perchlorates than previously thought, said Sam Delson, spokesman for OEHHA. Perchlorates have been shown to reduce iodide uptake, and is especially disruptive when the brain is growing and developing in infancy. The reduction of iodide uptake in people causes decreases in the thyroid hormone and can cause significant decreases in intelligence when a child does not produce enough of the hormone.

Recent studies have found that many infants do not receive enough iodide in their mother's milk, which is part of the reason for the proposed health goal, said Delson.

Public health goals cannot be enforced, but the California Department of Public Health uses the information from the public health goal to set state drinking water standards. OEHHA is required by law to look at the current public health goals and update them every five years, said Delson. Public health goals are set so that an individual drinking water with the chemical in it over a lifetime has a very low risk for adverse health effects. The California Department of Public Health then tries to set the drinking water standard as close to the public health goal as close as economically and technically possible.

OEHHA will be taking public comments on the public health goal until Feb. 23 and will also be holding a public workshop on the proposal on Feb. 23 in Oakland. For more information on how to comment on the proposed health goal, visit www.oehha.ca.gov.

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