Read the full article by Jeff McMenemy

“PORTSMOUTH — The state’s congressional delegation is asking a national health agency to study the possible connection between a child’s exposure to PFAS chemicals and pediatric cancer.

The delegation asked the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to ‘ensure that studies investigating the negative association between PFAS exposure and immune function include a focus on the chemicals’ connection with pediatric cancer.’

‘We also urge you to explore whether variations in pediatric cancers found in New Hampshire are tied to PFAS as you assist the Agency for Toxic Substances And Disease Registry in conducting the proof of concept model study at Pease and the national multi-state study of PFAS health effects,’ the delegation stated in an Oct. 19 letter to Linda Bimbaum, director of National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, along with U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster, acknowledge in the letter ‘the risks associated with PFAS exposure are still being uncovered.’ But they also note ‘studies have linked these chemicals to a number of adverse health effects.’

‘For instance, a draft toxicological study recently published by the ATSDR suggested that exposure to certain PFAS chemicals may leave children susceptible to immune system damage, which could play a detrimental role in the human body’s ability to fight off cell infections that cause diseases including cancers,” the delegation stated in the letter.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported New Hampshire had the highest pediatric cancer rate in the country from 2003 to 2014.

The state Department of Health and Human Services confirmed in February 2016 it had identified a cancer cluster on the Seacoast involving two rare pediatric cancers.

Then in May 2017, state Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan acknowledged there were seven brain or central nervous system pediatric cancers detected in Rye, New Castle, Portsmouth, Greenland and North Hampton during a period when they expected to see 3.1.

The pediatric cancer cluster detection came after thousands of people at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth – including babies and toddlers at two day cares here – were exposed to high levels of PFAS chemicals in a contaminated city-owned well.

In addition to being a suspected carcinogen, PFAS chemicals are suspected of causing birth defects and immune system dysfunction, according to a recent study by the ATSDR.

The congressional delegation previously asked U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to have DHHS look at the factors that could be causing the high pediatric cancer rate in New Hampshire and other states.

‘We would appreciate continued interagency efforts within HHS, including activity from NIESH, to examine linkages between PFAS and high pediatric cancer rates,’ the delegation stated in the letter. ‘New Hampshire parents are extremely concerned about what exposure to PFAS chemicals means for the health and safety of their children.’

‘I have been concerned since the pediatric cancer has been identified about the possible connection to increased pediatric cancers and PFAS exposure,’ Messmer said. ‘That is the only common thread between the cancers.’

One of the rare pediatric cancers identified by New Hampshire’s DHHS was rhabdomyosarcoma.

Messmer noted Friday a former Portsmouth police lieutenant who lived near the Coakley landfill in Greenland, along with two people in Merrimack, have been diagnosed with adult onset RMS.

The state has detected high levels of PFAS chemicals in monitoring wells at the landfill, which is a Superfund cleanup site.

‘Again, the only common exposure to these adult RMS cases is PFAS,’ Messmer said. ‘Not only is it a rare cancer, but is a rare occurrence of the adult onset type of the cancers.’ “