Environment & Energy Report

Communities in U.S. PFAS Health Study to Be Named by Fall (2)

June 11, 2019, 3:58 PMUpdated: June 11, 2019, 7:30 PM

Communities across the U.S. to be included in the first national health study on the effects of “nonstick” chemicals in drinking water should be announced by the end of September, according to the head of the federal agency conducting the study.

The study will examine the large group of chemicals that give heat-, oil-, friction-, and heat-resistance to textiles, food packaging, semiconductors, airplane parts, cookware, and other materials.

The national study will evaluate whether this group of chemicals—called per- and polyfluroalkyl substances, or PFAS—increase the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, thyroid problems, kidney and liver disease, low birth weight, and other health problems.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is conducting the study, will focus on those health problems because they are associated with the two most studied members of the group—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

The study is being funded with $30 million Congress appropriated, according to information ATSDR provided June 11. The money is given to the Department of Defense to pass through to the health agency for this and related research.

An additional $10 million for the study is included in both the House and Senate National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.

The House Armed Services Committee will consider additional amendments to that legislation and is expected to vote on the measure June 12. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved it in May.

Goal 6,000 Adults, 2,000 Children

Communities with PFAS in their drinking water had to apply by June 3 to be part of the study, ATSDR Director Patrick Breysse told Bloomberg Environment.

Independent scientists will review the applications to ensure those selected can help researchers achieve their goals, he said.

The study will need large numbers of participants to have the statistical power to determine whether PFAS compounds are affecting people’s health, he said. The agency will study the effects of 12 PFAS compounds, according to a draft protocol released in February.

ATSDR also wants the study—which will take five to seven years to complete—to reflect the nation’s diversity in terms of participants’ ages, gender, race, and other factors, Breysse said.

The goal is to recruit 6,000 adults as well as 2,000 children as young as 4 to be studied.

The number of communities that could be involved is not set, Breysse said.

Some results, such as if it’s shown that low birth weights are resulting from PFAS exposure, might be released prior to the full study’s completion, he said.

ATSDR is already figuring out the extent of exposure to PFAS from drinking water in 10 U.S. communities, and is helping a total of 30 communities address local contamination.

The agency also will conduct a study of PFAS links to cancer using exposure information it already has, Breysse said.

The research efforts build on PFAS data in blood and urine measurements that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has regularly monitored since a 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, according to agency information.

CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, which Breysse also directs, measures up to 14 PFAS chemicals in blood serum and 17 in urine.

(Updated with ATSDR protocol information in 10th paragraph and exposure data in 17th and 18th paragraph. Corrects amount of funding ATSDR has received to date which is $30 million. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Steven Gibb at sgibb@bloombergenvironment.com

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