Read the full article by Sharon Lerner (The Intercept)
“Residents of a New Hampshire town where drinking water was contaminated with the industrial compounds known as PFAS have elevated rates of several cancers compared to the national average and compared to several nearby communities that were not contaminated with the chemicals, according to a study published today in the journal Environmental Health Insights.
People living in Merrimack, in southern New Hampshire, had rates of thyroid cancer that were higher than the national average between 2005 and 2014. The authors also found that Merrimack residents had higher rates of thyroid, colon, and prostate cancer, when compared to several nearby towns that did not have high levels of PFAS contamination, as well as a higher risk of all cancers when compared to the relatively unexposed communities.
Merrimack is home to a Saint-Gobain factory that produces PFAS-lined glass and fabrics. Previously, the factory had been operated by the chemical company ChemFab, which Saint-Gobain acquired in 2000.
In 2016, two of Merrimack’s public drinking water wells were found to contain the toxic compound PFOA, a type of PFAS, in amounts above the Environmental Protection Agency’s 70 parts per trillion safety threshold. In 2019, the agency found 190 PFAS compounds in the air emissions coming out of the plant’s stack, most of which had never been identified before.
According to the new paper, the level of PFOA in the blood of Merrimack residents was almost three times the 2015-2016 national average — and higher for people who drank more water.
The EPA has recently taken several steps to limit exposure to PFOA, which has been shown to cause kidney cancer and other health problems, but the vast majority of PFAS compounds remain unregulated.
Nancy Murphy, a retired nurse who lives in Merrimack and whose family drank PFAS-contaminated water for years, has been asking for research on the health effects of the PFOA pollution since it was discovered in 2016. Murphy’s 36-year-old daughter is sick with a number of conditions, including hypothyroidism and polycystic ovarian syndrome, both of which have been linked to PFAS exposure. Her 32-year-old son, who runs marathons, has elevated cholesterol, which is also linked to PFAS, and her youngest son also has a serious thyroid condition. Both Murphy’s husband and brother-in-law, who also lived in Merrimack, have developed prostate cancer, which has also been linked to PFOA exposure — as did her father, who also had kidney cancer.
‘Can I say that PFAS definitely caused these things? I certainly can’t,” said Murphy. “But, man, there’s an awful lot of things that make me wonder.'”…