Read the full article by Zoe Read (WHYY PBS)

“Julie Cassidy has lived on a small street in Warminster for 24 years, and she’s noticed that some neighbors have developed different types of cancer. Her own husband died of a rare kind of leukemia.

Cassidy wonders if exposure to PFAS played any role in the sheer number of cancer diagnoses on her street.

‘We have a man with a pediatric brain tumor going back almost 10 years ago. We have a very young girl, incredibly young, that had early onset breast cancer.  My next-door neighbor had bladder cancer,’ she said.

For decades, the toxic chemicals known as PFAS have contaminated groundwater, air, and soil in communities in this region and across the country, as well as waterways and the fish living in them.

These so-called forever chemicals — PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are widely used in consumer products such as nonstick cookware, flame-retardant fabrics, and some food packaging. PFAS are also found in firefighting foam used at airports and current and decommissioned military bases, such as those in Bucks and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, and Dover Air Base in Delaware. The numerous health problems, including some cancers, linked to PFAS have led to lawsuits against the companies that make the products, such as DuPont and its successor companies, and 3M.

Cassidy recently submitted her health history, and blood and urine samples, to researchers who want to better understand the health outcomes of people exposed to PFAS. Seven areas across the United States were selected for the national study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

‘I think there’s more power in knowing, and when the results come out, I think we would have more power in even being able to prevent such things in the future — for my children, my grandchildren,’ Cassidy said. ‘I do find that some people have said that, ‘Oh, I don’t really want to know.’ ‘It makes me anxious.’ ‘What I don’t know can’t hurt me.’ But if we all looked at it that way, we would never find out the problems and then be able to correct them.’

In Montgomery and Bucks counties, researchers are recruiting people who lived near former and active military bases in Horsham, Warminster and Warrington between 2005 and 2017. These locations have a history of PFAS contamination, and residents there are concerned about what the long-term effects might be. Though efforts have been made to address the contamination, studies show that certain types of these chemicals can remain in the body for years.

So far, 251 people in this area have signed up for the study. Researchers from RTI International, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Temple University, and Brown University are seeking 1,000 adults and 300 children to participate. Scientists will look for associations between PFAS exposure and various health conditions. After about a year, participants will receive their serum PFAS levels and the clinical results of their lab tests.”…