“ALBANY – The state is reviewing cancer diagnoses among City of Newburgh residents exposed for what may have been decades to a toxic chemical in the city’s drinking water supply.
Meanwhile, a study has concluded the state may have undercounted the number of cases in an upstate village exposed to a similar chemical.
Department of Health officials are counting cancer cases in Newburgh in response to the discovery of high levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate in Washington Lake, which was closed in May 2016 as the city switched to drawing drinking water from New York City’s Catskill Aqueduct.
Infiltration of the lake’s watershed by PFOS-containing firefighting foams at Stewart Air National Guard Base is considered the source of the contamination.
The review of Newburgh residents covers 23 common cancers, with a focus on four linked to PFOS and related chemicals – bladder, kidney, prostate and testicular – and is based on mandatory reporting by physicians to the state’s cancer registry.
It should be complete by the end of the year, said Brad Hutton, deputy health commissioner for public health.
‘The part of it that takes the most time is ensuring that we have everything geo-coded properly and that we have complete case reports for the city residents,’ Hutton said. ‘We want to be sure that when we finalize our review, and make a comparison of the number of cases that we learned of versus the number that were expected, we want to be sure that it’s highly complete.’
A blood-testing program organized by DOH in response to the contamination confirmed that residents within Newburgh and in the surrounding towns had significantly higher levels of PFOS than the national average.
Results for the first 370 people tested showed a middle level of 16 parts per billion, meaning half those tested were above that number and half below. The result was three times higher than the national figure of 5.2 parts per billion…
While DOH completes its Newburgh cancer study, it has already done one for the Village of Hoosick Falls in Rensselaer County, whose residents drank and cooked with water polluted with the PFOS sister chemical PFOA. The village’s contamination was traced to a manufacturing facility.
For 1995 through 2015, the state found that only lung cancer cases were higher than expected among village residents. The review showed no ‘statistically significantly higher’ cases for any other cancers, including those associated with PFOA and PFOS…
‘We had residents reach out to us saying, ’That’s impossible. I know several people who have testicular cancer in the Village of Hoosick Falls,’ said David Bond, a Bennington professor who designed the health questionnaire.
Bennington’s survey, conducted online and by volunteers walking door-to-door, was aimed at current and former Hoosick Falls residents and sought information on cases outside the 19-year window used by DOH.
In addition to kidney and testicular cancers, the survey asked residents about non-cancer illnesses associated with the chemicals – pregnancy-induced hypertension, thyroid disease and ulcerative colitis. Results from the questionnaire included 17 cases of kidney and nine cases of testicular cancer, compared to the 12 cases of kidney cancer and zero cases of testicular cancer reported by the state.
The state’s parameters were ‘fairly narrow,’ Bond said.
‘We’re calling for more research; it needs to be a serious study, not one that’s been sort of put together quickly with very narrow parameters,’ he said. ‘We need to do the best we can to understand, what are the health trends among that population that was exposed.’ ”
Read the full article by Leonard Sparks