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Environment & Energy Report

National PFAS Health Studies Kicking Off Following Protocol’s OK

July 9, 2020, 5:28 PM

Federally funded studies to understand the health effects of PFAS in communities that have drinking water contaminated with the chemicals are beginning cautiously because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health will host a virtual meeting Thursday evening to introduce the scientists who will spearhead an investigation in two of that state’s counties and answer local residents’ questions, said Suzanne Triplett, a program director at RTI International. That research institute is the lead organization for the Pennsylvania portion of the federal study.

The launch of Pennsylvania study follows the White House’s Office of Management and Budget’s approval in late May of a research protocol developed by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agency, the CDC said on Wednesday.

The national study will examine people living in eight areas where per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, got into their drinking water at concentrations above the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory.

The areas are El Paso County, Col.; Hyannis and Ayer, Mass.; Parchment/Cooper Township and North Kent County, Mich.; Pease International Tradeport near Portsmouth, N.H.; Gloucester County, N.J.; Hoosick Falls and Newburgh, N.Y.; Montgomery and Bucks counties, Pa.; and Orange, Anaheim, Yorba Linda, and nearby communities in California.

The New Hampshire study, the pilot to test out the protocols the other sites would use, has paused due to the coronavirus, according to CDC information.

$40 Million Provided

Congress has provided $40 million for the study through appropriations the Department of Defense received. A House committee agreed July 1 to add $15 million more in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021. The military’s use of a specialized fire fighting foam that contains certain PFAS has been among the sources of the chemicals in drinking water.

The House Appropriations Committee is taking up a fiscal 2021 spending bill on Friday for the EPA that includes millions of additional dollars for PFAS research.

CDC didn’t immediately provide on Thursday the final list of health problems the multi-site study will examine. The agency proposedinvestigating potential PFAS health effects, including increased cholesterol levels and impaired kidney and immune function.

The 3M Co. and DuPont were the original companies developing and producing PFAS, dating to the 1940s. Chemicals made with the particular PFAS that 3M, DuPont, and Chemours, a Dupont spinoff, have produced have been used by hundreds of companies such as Wolverine World Wide, Inc. and W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. to make thousands of products, including semiconductors, sticky notes, and shoes.

The original PFAS manufacturers, Chemours, and some companies using the chemicals are the subject of several major PFAS-related lawsuits.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com; Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergindustry.com

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