“The Minnesota Department of Health said Wednesday it has found no clusters of cancer, premature births or low-birthweight babies in parts of Washington County where groundwater was contaminated years ago by a 3M Co. chemical.

The review, prompted by residents’ concerns, flatly contradicts the conclusions of an expert hired by state Attorney General Lori Swanson and comes just days before the start of a long-awaited trial between the state and 3M. The chemicals’ potential health implications are a major component of Swanson’s claims that Minnesota incurred up to $5 billion in damage to its natural resources.

In their report, state health officials said that, while they are concerned about the potential health impacts of the compounds known as PFCs, they employed widely accepted statistical methods used in public health to reach their conclusions. The findings, they noted, are similar to those they reported in 2007 and 2015.

But an internal Health Department document obtained late Wednesday by the Star Tribune indicates that the agency is on a collision course with Swanson’s office over the conflicting public health findings. The document states that underlying data have problems because Health Department scientists were rushed to complete it. In it, a department epidemiologist says that while he is confident in the study’s conclusions, ‘the cancer portion will be weak; much below our historical standards.’…

But the report does contradict some of the findings of Swanson’s hired expert, David Sunding, which raised alarms in east metro communities when they were made public in November. For instance, Sunding, a natural resources economist at the University of California, Berkeley, found that from 2001 to 2006, Oakdale mothers exposed to contaminated drinking water were 34 percent more likely to deliver premature babies compared with county mothers who did not have contaminated water…

Sunding said Wednesday that regardless of the Health Department’s conclusions, some of its data show trends similar to his own. For example, rates of premature births in Oakdale showed a decline after 2006, just as he found. And they did find some unusually high rates of childhood cancer.”

Read the full article by Josephine Marcotty.