Perchlorate & Best Management Practices Fact Sheet
The California Legislature passed the Perchlorate Contamination Prevention Act of 2003 requiring the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to adopt best management practices regulations for perchlorate materials. DTSC adopted the Perchlorate Best Management Practices (BMP) regulations on December 31, 2005, and the regulations are effective July 1, 2006.
If you are in the Department of Defense, or you are in an industry centered on aerospace, fireworks, pyrotechnics, safety flares, amusement parks, automobile air bag and safety restraint, lithium perchlorate batteries, or if you are in a public safety agency, this information is of use to you. Others affected by these regulations include farmers who use perchlorate-containing fertilizer, laboratories, bleach manufacturers and users, and Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs). Even households may be affected.
This fact sheet provides some background information to help understand the new regulations. This fact sheet also lists the types of perchlorate-containing products that may be subject to these requirements and describes the perchlorate best management practices.
Why Regulate Perchlorate?
There are existing hazardous material regulations for perchlorate in its pure form because it is used to enhance combustion. In recent years, environmental agencies have found more and more instances of perchlorate appearing in drinking water, groundwater, surface water and soil. In light of the risks to public health and the environment posed by perchlorate releases, the California Legislature directed DTSC to establish best management practices for the prevention of perchlorate contamination. DTSC wrote regulations establishing standards for handling materials, products, and waste that contain perchlorate.
What is Perchlorate?
Perchlorate is a chemical that is both manufactured and naturally-occurring. Most commonly found as an ionic salt, when dissolved in water it easily moves through and travels with the flow of water on or beneath the ground. Ammonium perchlorate and sodium perchlorate are examples of manufactured salts. Environmental agencies attribute its presence in the environment to past waste handling practices at facilities that manufacture or use this perchlorate and materials containing the chemical. It may also be present in the environment as a consequence of using perchlorate-containing products such as those identified below.
How is Perchlorate Used?
Perchlorate is used primarily as an ingredient in solid rocket propellant. The Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the defense industry use, and have for decades used, perchlorate in manufacturing, testing, and firing rockets and missiles. On the basis of 1998 manufacturer data, U.S. EPA estimated that manufacturing demand for the military and NASA is 90 percent of the perchlorate salt produced in the United States.
Private industry has used perchlorate to manufacture products such as fireworks, flares, automobile airbags, coin-cell batteries, and commercial explosives. Perchlorate is also found as an impurity in manufactured chemicals and products. Perchlorate can also occur as an impurity in some natural minerals used in some fertilizers.
How do I Know if I am Using Products that Contain Perchlorate?
You can find perchlorate in a variety of materials. The new perchlorate regulations require that those who manufacture products, or who bring products into California for distribution, label those products to inform consumers of the perchlorate content. The information may appear on the product itself, on the product label, in a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), or on a product insert. A MSDS is a detailed informational document of a hazardous material. If the material already has a perchlorate label, you can assume that the material contains perchlorate.
In What Products can I Expect to Find Perchlorate?
- Solid Rocket Motors: The amount of ammonium perchlorate required in a given motor varies by the type of solid rocket or missile propellant. For example, model rockets are fueled by single-use rocket motors may contain perchlorate. These motors are professionally manufactured and available to the general public for purchase.
- Flares: Both road and marine flares contain perchlorate salts.
- Fireworks: Sodium perchlorate and potassium perchlorate are often ingredients in fireworks.
- Pyrotechnic Devices: Pyrotechnics, used to produce light, smoke, heat, or sound effects, all contain an oxidizer component that is often a perchlorate material.
- Explosives: Perchlorate salts have been used as detonators, initiators, and propellants in military explosives. A newer class of explosives now includes ammonium perchlorate in the formulations to reduce accidental ignitions due to shock.
- Blasting Agents: Some blasting agents, mostly water gels, and emulsions, can contain substantial amounts of perchlorate salts. Perchlorate containing blasting agents are especially useful in construction and mining when conditions are wet or water-saturated.
- Common Batteries: These include small button batteries which are the size and shape of coins. The battery numbers will start with “CR” and they may be found in watches, appliances, keyless entry systems, and any device that is able to retain memory after the power supply is cut off.
- Air Bag Initiators: Airbag initiators are part of a car’s safety system and they may contain perchlorate. If the air bag is deployed during an accident, the perchlorate is used up in the process.
- Bleach: Hypochlorite solutions may contain perchlorate as an impurity. The concentration may increase as the product ages.
- Fertilizers: Perchlorate has been found in measurable amounts as an impurity in some fertilizers made with natural minerals such as bloodmeal, certain nitrate, fishmeal, hanksite, kelp, and potash. The fertilizer label and the MSDS should be reviewed to determine the presence of perchlorate in the fertilizer product.
What are the Human Health Effects of Perchlorate?
Perchlorate exposure at certain levels can disrupt the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with the iodide uptake and thyroid hormone production. This interference may lead to developmental defects. Scientists consider pregnant women, children, infants, and individuals with thyroid disorders to be the populations most at risk of harm from being exposed to perchlorate. These health threats are the reason agencies set standards for perchlorate.
When do the Perchlorate BMPs Apply?
Perchlorate materials include all forms of matter, goods, products, or waste that contain perchlorate. The perchlorate best management practices regulation specifically excludes hazardous waste, materials with perchlorate concentrations below 6 parts per billion (ppb), food, crops, irrigation water, combustion residuals, and contaminated media. The regulations apply to any person or business that manages perchlorate materials or waste in any manner including use, processing, generation, transportation, storage, and disposal.
How can I Determine the Concentration of Perchlorate?
You may use industry or chemical knowledge, or a MSDS, to determine the perchlorate concentration. You can also determine the concentration by using various analytical methods. To comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act standards, a lab must use EPA Method 314.0 – Determination of Perchlorate in Drinking Water by Ion Chromatography. U.S EPA and others are developing additional analytical methods. As examples, EPA’s Office of Solid Waste is working on a Method 6850 for analyzing perchlorate in various wastes; and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a draft analytical method for perchlorate in water, milk, and lettuce.
What are the Perchlorate Best Management Practices?
DTSC established perchlorate best management practices in regulations to address various aspects of handling perchlorate-containing material to minimize the threat of release and resulting public health or environmental harm. Key requirements of these regulations include:
- Businesses need to inform purchasers of perchlorate materials or products about the item’s perchlorate content.
- Businesses that manufacture perchlorate materials, repackage perchlorate materials, distribute perchlorate materials for sale, receive perchlorate materials for resale or use in California, or who generate a perchlorate-containing waste need to ensure that these perchlorate materials are properly labeled or marked with the following, “Perchlorate Material – special handling may apply.”
- There are alternatives to using a label in the BMPs which include shipping documents, MSDS, and training.
- Businesses that manufacture, package and distribute perchlorate materials must ensure they are properly contained in waterresistant packaging and labeled.
- Businesses must adopt additional containment procedures when materials or products are not contained in durable, water-resistant containers. For example, during manufacturing or repackaging, there may be times when perchloratecontaining material is not in a container – transferring from one container to another, for example – so that activity needs to be occur in weather-resistant structures on floors that do not contain drains.
- Businesses managing more than 500 pounds of solid perchlorate material or 55 gallons of liquid perchlorate material at any one time must submit to DTSC a onetime notification about their perchlorate materials and related activities. Send that notification to DTSC on or before September 1, 2007, to cover activities occurring between July 1, 2006 and June 30, 2007. This is in addition to the required hazardous material business plan. Certain exemptions may apply, see California Code of Regulations, title 22, section 67384.7(c).
- Use road safety flares in a way to minimize release of perchlorate into the environment. Businesses that use road flares should limit the duration and number of flares as necessary to ensure safety.
- Road flares should be allowed to burn completely.
- All personnel who routinely use road flares in the normal course of employment should receive instruction on the potential environmental hazards associated with using perchlorate materials and on the perchlorate best management practice requirements.
• Use marine safety flares in a manner that minimizes releases of perchlorate to the environment. Do not throw them into the water or into normal garbage. You cannot burn flares to dispose of them.
• Collect un-ignited pyrotechnics within 24 hours of a fireworks display and manage them as hazardous waste.
Businesses are responsible for cleaning up any spills of perchlorate-containing materials. You must first contain the spill, then clean it up to prevent the chemical from going into storm drains
Disposal and Discharge
- Businesses can only dispose of perchlorate-containing solid material to either a hazardous waste landfill or a compositelined portion of a non hazardous waste landfill.
- Landfills and Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs, wastewater treatment facilities owned by a state or municipality) that accept non hazardous perchlorate wastes must notify the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board of any perchlorate discharge and comply with any modifications to existing environmental monitoring programs.
- Businesses that discharge non-hazardous liquid perchlorate-containing waste or wastewater must notify the overseeing regulatory agency of the discharge. Typically, this is the POTW having jurisdiction in their area, and the business must notify the local Regional Water Quality Control Board. This allows regulatory agencies the opportunity to evaluate these discharges and determine whether the business should include perchlorate in its monitoring program.
- On or before January 1, 2008, and every five years thereafter, a business that uses perchlorate-containing fertilizers, safety flares, explosives, or blasting agents, in an amount greater than 500 pounds in any given month (the same “trigger” used in the Business plan) must review the use of these products determine for themselves if a non-perchlorate-containing alternative is available. These businesses also need to review and implement as appropriate pollution prevention measures to prevent releases of perchlorate. Certain exemptions may apply, see California Code of Regulations, title 22, section 67384.11(a).
- On or before January 1, 2008, a business using fireworks with more than 4,000 4 pounds of pyrotechnic composition or 8,000 pounds of solid rocket motors during any calendar year must submit to DTSC any existing environmental monitoring for perchlorate in the soil or water around the area of use.
How do the Perchlorate BMPs Apply?
Perchlorate BMPs for Households
Households are subject to these regulations but have the following minimal requirements.
- Households need to maintain proper packaging. The best way to do that is to keep perchlorate-containing materials in the original containers.
- If you keep the materials in durable, waterproof packaging, you do not have to have a second or backup way to contain it.
- If you use safety flares, keep the duration and number of flares to what is necessary to ensure safety.
- If you use marine safety flares, do not throw them in the water or in the normal garbage. You cannot burn them as a way to dispose of them. Contact your local household hazardous waste center for directions on management.
- Any spills of perchlorate products, spent fireworks, or spent model rockets need to be collected and may be disposed in the garbage.
Perchlorate BMPs for Businesses
For all other businesses, the requirements depend on how the business uses or manages perchlorate materials and/or waste. The following highlight requirements for businesses that sell perchlorate-containing products or handle pyrotechnics, safety flares, solid rocket motors, or fertilizers:
Perchlorate BMPs for Retailers
- Retailers who distribute perchlorate-containing materials for sale, resale or use in California are responsible to ensure that products are properly labeled or marked with the following, “Perchlorate Material – special handling may apply. There are alternatives to using a label in he BMPs which include shipping documents, MSDS, and training.
- Retailers need to ensure that perchlorate-containing products are in packaging or containers that are durable and water-resistant.
Perchlorate BMPs for Special Event Organizers or Amusement Parks using Fireworks
- Pyrotechnics operators are responsible for collecting any “stars” and un-ignited pyrotechnic material found during the inspection of the firing range after a public display of fireworks. The collected material must be managed as hazardous waste.
- On or before January 1, 2008, a business that uses fireworks in amounts greater than 4,000 pounds of pyrotechnic composition during any calendar year needs to submit to DTSC any existing environmental monitoring for perchlorate in the soil and/or water around the area of firework use.
Perchlorate BMPs for Law Enforcement, Fire Response and Other Governmental Agencies using Safety Flares
- Agencies that use safety flares should limit the duration and number of flares as necessary to ensure safety.
- All personnel who routinely use flares in the normal course of employment should receive instruction on the potential environmental hazards associated with the use of perchlorate materials and on the perchlorate BMP requirements.
- On or before January 1, 2008, and every five years thereafter, an agency that uses perchlorate-containing safety flares in an amount greater than 500 pounds in any month, needs to review the use of these perchlorate-containing products and determine for itself if a non-perchlorate- 5 containing alternative is available. Agencies must review and implement as appropriate pollution prevention measures to prevent releases of perchlorate.
Perchlorate BMPs for Businesses Producing, Testing, or Developing Solid Rocket Motors
- Businesses that process, manufacture, or store perchlorate materials, such as solid rocket motors, must contain these materials in a weather resistant structure without drains and that prevent seepage into or out of the containment area.
- On or before January 1, 2008 and every five years thereafter, a business using solid rocket motors in amounts greater than 8,000 pounds at any given time must submit to DTSC any existing environmental monitoring for perchlorate in the soil and/or water around the area of use.
Perchlorate BMPs for Businesses Using Fertilizer Containing Perchlorate
- Businesses that manufacture, package, or distribute this fertilizer must ensure that products are properly labeled or marked with the following, “Perchlorate Material – special handling may apply.”
- Businesses that simply use this fertilizer are exempt from labeling.
- There are alternatives to using a label in the BMPs which include shipping documents, MSDS, and training.
- Businesses that handle or sell these fertilizers need to ensure that these products are in durable and water-resistant packaging, containers, or are stored in weather – resistant structures.
- Businesses that apply the fertilizer are exempt from the containment requirement, if the fertilizer is stored for less than 30 days on the site of intended application.
- If the distributor from which you got it reported the fertilizer as required by the California’s Food and Agriculture annual tonnage report on fertilizer sales and distribution, the business using it need not make the one-time notification described elsewhere.
- Fertilizers allowed by the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture in keeping with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and fertilizers derived from those sources are exempt from pollution prevention requirements.
Where Can I Get More Information about Perchlorate?
View the DTSC website for general information about perchlorate.
The California Department of Health Services (opens new window) maintains a web page that provides an overview of issues regarding perchlorate in drinking water.
For additional information on the health effects of perchlorate, DTSC suggests you visit the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment website (opens new window).
You can also find health information on the Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry website (opens new window).
View U.S. EPA national occurrence maps (opens new window).
- BMP: Best Management Practice
- Cal/EPA: California Environmental Protection Agency
- DTSC: Department of Toxic Substances Control
- MSDS: Material Safety Data Sheet
- ppb: Parts per billion
- US EPA: United States Environmental Protection Agency
- Managing Perchlorate Materials: means generation, storage, transportation, manufacture, processing, fabrication, packaging, use, reuse, treatment, transfer, pumping, recovery, recycling, spill response, disposal, and discharge.
- Packaging: means a receptacle and any other components or materials necessary for the receptacle to perform its containment function in conformance with the minimum packing requirements.
- Perchlorate Material: means all perchlorate-containing materials including perchloric acid and perchlorate compounds.
- Perchlorate Material: Includes all forms of matter, goods, and products.
This fact sheet does not replace or supersede relevant statutes and regulations. The information contained in this fact sheet is based upon the statutes and regulations in effect as of the date of the fact sheet. Interested parties should keep apprised of subsequent changes to relevant statutes and regulations.
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