Nearly 30K residents and workers in the City of Newburgh who drank tap water between the early 1990s and May 2016 were exposed to a toxic class of chemicals known as Perfluorochemicals, (or PFAS for short). This is due to the pollution of Lake Washington, the City's main drinking water reservoir during that time period.
The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) conducted its first biomonitoring program between Nov. 2016 and Dec. 2017, offering free blood testing for City of Newburgh residents and workers. 3,763 people participated and were tested for six PFAS chemicals. Three of those chemicals—PFAS, PFOA and PFHxS—were found to be elevated well above the national average.
Of adults (18+ yrs) who drank City water and were in the 50th percentile, PFOS levels were found to be 20.1 mcg/L—nearly four times the national average of 5.2. Children (below 18 yrs) in the same sector were found to have PFOS levels of 8.3 mcg/L.
According to Boston University's Superfund Research Program, PFAS are a large group of man-made toxic chemicals that are used to make consumer products resistant to water, grease or stains. Common products include Gore-Tex rain gear, Teflon no-stick cookware and Scotchguard stain-repellent for carpets or furniture fabric. PFAS have also been used in firefighting foams. If you live in the U.S. you likely have some PFAS in your body. PFAS exposure is linked to serious medical problems, including:
— Kidney cancer and testicular cancer
— Impaired liver function
— Impaired fertility
— Impaired fetal development
— Chronic intestinal inflammation
— Disruption of critical thyroid hormones
— Weakened immune system
— High cholesterol
— A potentially fatal complication of pregnancy called preeclampsia
— Elevated blood pressure during pregnancy
PFAS persist in the environment and the human body, taking several years to breakdown. The chemicals' decomposition is measured by half-lives: the amount of time it takes for the original amount to decrease by 50%. Half-lives differ for each PFAS chemical, ranging from an estimated 2-4 years for PFOA, 5 years for PFOS, and 8.5 years for PFHxS, according to the NIH. Health studies are being conducted to understand the correlation between exposure and health effects.
SOURCES: EPA | ATSDR | NIH | EARTHJUSTICE | BOSTON UNIVERSITY SRP
CDC/ATSDR MULTI-SITE HEALTH STUDY — NYSDOH AND SUNY ALBANY TO STUDY NEWBURGH & HOOSICK FALLS COMMUNITIES 2020 - 2023
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) soliciting research applications to conduct a multi-site study on the human health effects of exposures to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) through drinking water.
"The study researchers will work to recruit at least 2,000 children (ages 4-17) and 6,000 adults (ages 18 and older) from communities who have been exposed to PFAS-contaminated drinking water. The study is designed to gather information about the relationship between PFAS exposure and health outcomes that can be applied to exposed communities across the nation, including those not selected for the study. Understanding the relationship between exposure and health outcomes will allow communities and governmental agencies to make science-based decisions about how to protect public health. The findings will also help prepare people to discuss exposures with their health care providers and take steps to monitor their health, as needed."
New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) in partnership with research scientists at SUNY Albany were awarded the grant to study Newburgh and Hoosick Falls communities. On April 1, 2019, the CDC and ATSDR released a draft protocol for the study.
HEALTH STUDY — NYSDOH CANCER REGISTRY
New York State's Department of Health is conducting an investigation to see if there are unusual elevations of cancer among Newburgh area residents. The investigation is looking at total cancers and specific types of cancer diagnosed from 1995 through 2013 (latest available data), using the data from the NYS Cancer Registry, which receives reports on all cases of cancer within the state. The current public registry only reflects data for the 5 largest cities in upstate NY along with NYC and some of the larger downstate towns.
NCWP advocates that this investigation be carried out in collaboration with community health groups and St. Luke's hospital and that findings be made public and accessible to all affected residents.