The effect of short-term low-dose perchlorate on various aspects of thyroid function

J. E. Lawrence, S. H. Lamm, S. Pino, K. Richman, L. E. Braverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Perchlorate (ClO4) salts are found in rocket fuel, fireworks, and fertilizer. Because of ground water contamination, ClO4 has recently been detected in large public water supplies in several states in the 4-18 μg/L (parts per billion [ppb]) range. The potential adverse effect of chronic low level ClO4 ingestion on thyroid function is of concern to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The daily ingestion of ClO4 at these levels would be magnitudes below the therapeutic effect level of hundreds of milligrams of ClO4 used in treating hyperthyroidism. Studies were carried out in nine healthy male volunteers who had normal thyroid function and negative thyroid antibodies to determine whether the ingestion of 10 mg of ClO4 daily (approximately 300 times the estimated maximum amount of ClO4 consumed from the affected water supplies) would affect any aspect of thyroid function. They ingested 10 mg of ClO4 dissolved in a liter of spring water during waking hours for 14 days. Baseline serum thyrotropin (TSH), free thyroxine index (FTI), total triiodothyronine (TT3), 4-, 8-, and 24-hour thyroid 123I uptakes (RAIU), serum and 24-hour urine ClO4, 24-hour urine iodine, complete blood count (CBC), and chemistry profile were determined. All blood and urine tests were repeated on days 7 and 14 of ClO4 administration and thyroid RAIU on day 14 of ClO4 administration. All tests were repeated 14 days after ClO4 was discontinued. No effect of ClO4 on serum thyroid hormone or TSH concentrations, urinary iodine excretion, CBC, or blood chemistry was observed. Urine and serum ClO4 levels were appropriately elevated during the course of ClO4 ingestion in all subjects, demonstrating compliance. By day 14 of ClO4 administration, the 4-, 8-, and 24-hour thyroid RAIU values decreased in all nine subjects by a mean value of 38% from baseline and rebounded above baseline values by 25% at 14 days after ClO4 withdrawal (p <0.01 analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Tukey). It is well known that the major effect of ClO4 on the thyroid is a decrease in the thyroid iodide trap by competitive inhibition of the sodium iodide symporter (NIS). The present study demonstrates the sensitivity of the thyroid iodide trap to ClO4 because a low dose of 10 mg daily significantly decreased the thyroid RAIU without affecting circulating thyroid hormone or TSH concentrations. It is possible, however, that the daily consumption of low levels of ClO4 in drinking water over a prolonged period of time could adversely affect thyroid function but no evidence of hypothyroidism was observed at 10 mg of ClO4 daily in this 2-week study. It is now of interest to determine a no effect level for ClO4 on the inhibition of the thyroid RAIU and to carry out a long-term ClO4 exposure study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-663
Number of pages5
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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