Residents who live near 10 current and former military installations – including six National Guard bases – will be part of assessments that will examine the dangers of exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Two federal agencies who are leading the assessments identified the communities last week. They include locations in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) said the assessments will begin this year and will lay the groundwork for a future health study that will look at the relationship between PFAS and health outcomes.
“PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1950s. They have been used in nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil,” officials said.
Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposure to PFAS. Some studies have shown that PFAS exposure may affect growth, learning and the behavior of infants and older children; lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant; interfere with the body’s natural hormones; increase cholesterol levels; affect the immune system; and increase the risk of cancer.
Two communities have already begun assessments using state grants. They include areas near Horsham Air Guard Station in Bucks and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania and near Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton, New York.
Other communities that will be part of the assessments include:
• Berkeley County, West Virginia near Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base;
• El Paso County, Colorado near Peterson Air Force Base;
• Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska near Eielson Air Force Base;
• Hampden County, Massachusetts near Barnes Air National Guard Base;
• Lubbock County, Texas near Reese Technology Center;
• Orange County, New York near Stewart Air National Guard Base;
• New Castle County, Delaware near New Castle Air National Guard Base; and
• Spokane County, Washington near Fairchild Air Force Base.
Officials with the CDC and ATSDR said the primary goal of the assessments will be to provide information to communities about the levels of PFAS in their bodies.
“The assessments will generate information about exposure to PFAS in affected communities and will extend beyond the communities identified, as the lessons learned can also be applied to communities facing similar PFAS drinking water exposures. This will serve as a foundation for future studies evaluating the impact of PFAS exposure on human health,” said Patrick Breysse, director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Residents in each community will be selected randomly to participate in exposure assessments. Participants will then have their PFAS levels checked via blood and urine samples.
More information on PFAS and PFAS exposure can be found here.