“HOOSICK FALLS — A health survey conducted by Bennington College, several scientists and former environmental regulators found a higher incidence of cancer in people exposed to PFOA in several local communities than had been estimated by the state Health Department.
The survey also found high rates of other serious diseases linked to PFOA exposure among residents who worked at or lived near manufacturing plants that for decades had used the toxic chemical at facilities in Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and Bennington, Vt.
The findings, released Tuesday morning, reveal significantly more cases of cancer than had been estimated by the New York State Health Department in a June 2017 report. That study relied on data from the state cancer registry and examined current and former residents within boundaries delineated by zip codes, rather than proximity to the factories the spewed the chemical from their stacks.
Elevated levels of PFOA were found in the village of Hoosick Falls’ public water system in 2014. The state Health Department and village officials were later criticized because they waited roughly 16 months — and faced pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — before they warned the public to stop drinking the water.…
The fallout of the pollution included thousands of residents, including young children, testing positive for elevated levels of PFOA in their blood. The resulting public outrage helped pressure the EPA to lower the recommended level of PFOA in drinking water from 440 parts per trillion to 70 parts per trillion.
High levels of the toxic chemical were found at four sites in the village of Hoosick Falls, including at a manufacturing plant adjacent to the village’s water treatment plant. Those areas have since been designated as Superfund sites.
The state’s report examining cancer rates in the residents of residents in that area did not examine other health conditions that have been linked to long-term PFOA exposure, including colitis, preeclampsia, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and respiratory problems.
The Health Department report found no cases of testicular cancer in Hoosick Falls, where at least two manufacturing facilities had used PFOA for decades. The Bennington College report, however, confirmed nine cases of that type of cancer in current or former village residents.
The report released Tuesday by Bennington College researchers also found — in addition to 31 cases of kidney cancer and a total of 11 cases of testicular cancer — that 231 people in the three communities had been diagnosed with thyroid disease, 35 with pregnancy-induced hypertension, and 71 with ulcerative colitis.
State Health Department officials said they were supportive of the survey efforts by Bennington College and have urged the federal government to include Hoosick Falls in a broader health study.
The state’s analysis looked only at people who had been reported to be diagnosed with cancer between 1994 and 2014, in part because those were the years for which electronic data was available. The Health Department’s report, which was widely criticized for its methodology, revealed much lower rates of some forms of cancer linked to long-term PFOA exposure — testicular, kidney and thyroid — but revealed there were 91 cases of lung cancer during the study period, far above the expected rate of 65 for a village the size of Hoosick Falls, where the population is about 3,400 people.
David Bond, a Bennington College professor who helped lead the health survey released Tuesday, said their study was not limited to a set time period and relied on confirmation from individuals diagnosed with a disease or the accounts of their surviving relatives…
He said some local residents afflicted with the type of cancers linked to PFOA exposure have struggled to keep up with their medical costs and, in some instances, relied on GoFundMe campaigns to help pay for their treatment.
‘This is unacceptable,’ Bond said. ‘Victims of toxic pollution should never have to pay for their own medical treatment. The polluters should be required to fund the new healthcare needs PFOA has brought to these communities.’ …
Judith Enck, a former regional administrator for the federal EPA, worked with Bennington College on the informal survey and had called on the state Health Department to do more ‘bio-monitoring’ of residents in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh.
‘We did this with students and volunteers and squeezed it in on the weekends,’ Enck said. ‘We found nine testicular cancers and 17 kidney cancers in the village of Hoosick Falls, and we think our numbers are a vast underestimate. Can you imagine if you’re the state Health Department with paid staff who could have blanketed these communities with surveys?’
Enck said the results also underscore the need to conduct longterm medical monitoring of residents of the communities.
Brad Hutton, a deputy commissioner with the state Health Department, said the agency is coordinating a second round of blood testing for residents in the Hoosick Falls area. Hutton said roughly 3,000 people in that area have had their blood tested for PFOA — part of roughly 6,000 blood tests done statewide in places such as Newburgh and Long Island, where PFOA contamination has also been an issue.
‘We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to demonstrate a reduction in levels (of PFOA) for residents that participated in both round 1 and round 2 of the blood testing,’ Hutton said. He said those results would also help reassure residents that the carbon-filtration systems are eliminating PFOA from their drinking water.”
Read the full article by Brendan J. Lyons