The federal government will assess the potential health hazards associated with human exposure to PFAS in the Fairfield area, signaling growing concern about the risks to residents who have unknowingly drunk contaminated water for years.
The Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has confirmed that it will produce a “health consultation” report for central Maine and has already begun collecting available data on local pollution. and polyfluoroalkyl. substances in water, soil and food.
The group of man-made chemicals is associated with a number of harmful effects on health, but no one has yet tried to draw a line between pollution in Maine and the health of residents. Although it may be difficult to quantify the risk associated with health issues that are still being studied, the federal government’s interest in Fairfield reflects the worrying severity of pollution in the area.
Health consultation is different from research research. After the agency reviews the available local environmental data to see how much PFAS pollution there is in different samples, it will determine the level of human exposure to this pollution to assess their potential health risk. It may also recommend steps to protect public health. So far, the Fairfield area appears to have the highest PFAS pollution in Maine.
“I am very grateful and very happy that they are coming. “I’m glad we’re attracting national attention,” said Ashley Gouldrup of Fairfield. “It simply came to our notice then. It’s scary. To get us taken, you know you’re in a problem zone. ”
Gouldrup lives on How Road, where government officials have found some of the highest levels of PFAS in well water. As part of the Fairfield Water Concerned Citizens group, she first petitioned the federal agency in May 2021 to conduct the analysis.
The agency replied in a letter on March 15 that it would “conduct an in-depth assessment of the potential health effects of PFAS exposure to the environment.” After reviewing the available data on environmental samples, I will turn to determining the levels of human exposure to PFAS.
To do this, the ATSDR will need to understand some specific things about the area, such as how long PFAS pollution has been in the environment and how often people come into contact with the soil or ingest water or food, such as deer and fish, with PFAS. , announced in the e-mail communication service of ATSDR.
He will host community sessions in early fall to gather information from local people. Residents can provide information on the history of pollution or health problems in the area.
“The community’s contribution is crucial to the success of accurate health counseling,” ATSDR said.
Gouldrup and her fiancé Troy Renee bought their home in January 2020, she said. They were called one evening that November by the Maine Department of the Environment. They were told to stop drinking their water immediately. It was tested for PFAS at 25,600 parts per trillion – 1,280 times the current standard for drinking water in the country.
The chemicals have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, high cholesterol, vaccine resistance in children and reproductive complications.
Gouldrup knows the health problems her neighbors face and worries about her own health, she said. She now has a water treatment system, but is wondering if she can raise a family on contaminated land and if she can ever sell the property.
She has learned that even the dust in her house is contaminated with PFAS, which means that the insulation in the walls may need to be replaced. She was warned to wear an N-95 mask when mowing the lawn.
“It’s scary to think about all the people who have health problems. If we can’t get out of this house, will we? she said.
Historically, the sludge was scattered behind her house, in the fields of a dairy farm, Guldrup said. The state approved permits for the disposal of treated solid wastewater as a type of fertilizer and highlighted the benefits. Later testing showed that the fields were contaminated with PFAS.
As of June 1, the state had taken samples from 418 wells in Fairfield as part of an extensive and ongoing investigation to find out where the chemicals were. About 40 percent of the wells have so far returned with PFAS levels higher than the Maine drinking water standard.
It is known to be difficult to confirm that certain chemical contaminants cause specific diseases, as many factors can affect human health. But researchers are trying to learn more about how PFAS chemicals can harm the population. ATSDR is currently investigating PFAS exposure and the potential health effects of chemicals in more than 30 communities across the country.
Without more research results, it may be difficult for ATSDR to draw new conclusions about the health risks associated with human exposure to PFAS in Fairfield.
ATSDR previously assessed PFAS exposure in private drinking water wells near Pease International Trade Port in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at the behest of the U.S. Air Force. The source of the PFAS is believed to be fire-fighting foam used at the former Pease Air Force Base. The foam chemicals probably traveled from the base, which is now a business park, through the soil and water to nearby wells.
In its health consultation report published in February, ATSDR said it could not determine the risk for people who drank from 30 specific wells, in part due to a lack of scientific information on the health effects of the discovered chemicals PFAS.
He found that PFAS may have increased the risk of harmful, non-cancerous health effects, especially in young children who drank from five specific wells or were born to mothers who did. But the risk of cancer was uncertain, because although there is evidence that two specific chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), are carcinogenic, “the science of PFOA, PFOS and other PFAS is very limited at present. quantification of the risk. “