Read the full article by Haley Samsel (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
“After years of using chemical-laden foam to put out fires on Fort Worth’s Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, the Navy has found that at least one nearby private drinking water well has been contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals.
The chemicals, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are commonly found in food packaging, electronics, carpets and other plastics. They’re better known as PFAS, which refers to thousands of chemicals that share similar components.
Most Americans have been exposed to the two most well-known PFAS chemicals, PFOS and PFOA, due to its use in many consumer products, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Most important for military bases, PFAS chemicals are found in flame retardants like aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, which Navy firefighters formerly used to extinguish flames caused by training exercises or plane crashes.
The chemicals can seep into soil and groundwater, which has led to contamination and health concerns in communities across the United States. Known as ‘forever chemicals,’ PFAS are highly persistent and accumulate in the environment and in people’s bodies rather than breaking down, said Dr. Katherine Pelch, a professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth who studies how chemicals found in everyday products can impact public health.
‘We know that PFAS can have very harmful effects in humans, and this evidence is supported by the science that has been produced in lots of different animal species,’ Pelch said. ‘In humans, we know that they are associated with development of certain cancers and … with a decreased immune response, particularly in children, so kids have a decreased ability to respond to vaccines when they are exposed to these chemicals.’
While the Navy’s testing in Fort Worth did not find widespread PFAS contamination, Pelch and her fellow scientists have spent several years sounding the alarm about the lack of regulation of PFAS chemicals and their presence in water systems across the country at levels that could cause health problems.
Dallas-Fort Worth residents should continue to be concerned about contamination because state or federal agencies are not required to test for PFAS in drinking water, Pelch said.
‘Even though we know that they’re widespread across the country, there’s no mandate that water systems test for them,’ Pelch said.
In 2016, the Navy began to respond to public health concerns by looking at its historical record to determine where firefighting foam was used on bases and how it may have affected groundwater in surrounding communities, said Susan Brink, a Navy spokesperson…”