- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 7, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - No higher incidences of certain types of cancer linked to the toxic chemical PFOA were found in an upstate New York village whose water supplies were contaminated by the chemical, state health officials said in a report released Wednesday.

The Department of Health said its investigation in Hoosick Falls found lower-than-normal rates of four types of cancer linked to exposure to PFOA, a chemical long used in the manufacture of Teflon and similar materials.

Researchers analyzed data for 20 types of cancer in the state’s cancer registry from 1995 through 2014, the same year elevated levels of PFOA were found in the village’s public water system. The only type of cancer found to be elevated was lung cancer, which has not been linked to PFOA exposure by scientific studies.

“No statistically significant elevations of cancer were found for any of the cancer types associated with PFOA exposure,” the agency said. Those cancers are testicular, kidney, prostate and bladder cancer.

The findings have been mailed to residents in the Rensselaer County village near the Vermont border, 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Albany. State health officials have scheduled a series of public sessions in the village to discuss the results.

“Our study was not answering the question of whether PFOA causes cancer. We leave that to other groups,” said Brad Hutton, deputy commissioner of public health. “We can’t tell a person with cancer whether it was because of exposure to PFOA.”

Hutton said the study also doesn’t address other health problems linked by some studies to PFOA exposure, such as developmental problems in infants, liver damage, thyroid effects, immune problems and cholesterol changes.

Contamination of the village’s water supply was first discovered in testing in 2014 by a resident who was concerned about a series of cancer deaths, including his father’s death from kidney cancer after working for decades at a plastics plant that used PFOA.

The Environmental Protection Agency and state have since overseen installation of filtration systems on the municipal water supply and hundreds of private wells, and about 3,000 residents have had their blood tested for PFOA.

The state has said exposure to PFOA from the village’s drinking water dates back more than 40 years.

The study was greeted with skepticism by residents and environmentalists who have been critical of the state health agency since it initially assured people the water was safe.

The report “raises more questions than it answers,” said Judith Enck, the former EPA regional administrator who first told village residents not to drink their tap water, contradicting a state advisory. “It illustrates the need for long term health monitoring,” she said.

David Hassel, a former employee of the local plant that used PFOA, said the study has flaws that skew the findings toward no elevated cancer rate. One is that it included only the 3,500 residents of the village, not the 1,000 in the surrounding town who also drink the water. Another is that it didn’t include people who moved away before they got cancer.

“Over a 20-year period, I would bet at least 40 percent of the older citizens moved at least over the village lines, if not to Florida,” Hassel said.

Liz Moran of Environmental Advocates of New York called it “an inadequate study which misleads the public into thinking they are out of the woods.”

Hutton said migration of residents out of the area is unlikely to impact the overall findings of the study.


Information from: Times Union, https://www.timesunion.com

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