After several months of delay related to COVID-19, Polsbar residents are invited to take blood and urine tests and answer questions about their medical history as part of a national investigation into the effects of chemicals in drinking water.
The city of South Jersey is one of eight facilities across the country selected to conduct tests that federal scientists hope will shed more light on how PFAS, or so-called chemicals, affect human health forever.
Previous studies of the link between “chemicals forever” and human health have shown a number of diseases, including some cancers, immune system disorders, ulcerative colitis and high cholesterol. But those studies – including two in Polsbare itself – took a sample of several people, and scientists were looking for stronger evidence that the chemicals pose a threat to public health.
A survey of 196 Polsbar residents in 2017 found that they all had PFNA in their blood, a type of chemical PFAS, and that the level was about four times higher than the national level.
Now the Federal Agency for Toxicity and Disease Registry is looking for 1,000 adults and 300 children at each of the study sites who are willing to give samples and conduct an hour-long interview about their medical history so scientists can draw stronger conclusions about the effects of chemicals on health.
The Rutgers team
“We need enough people in the study to be able to determine with some confidence that these health outcomes are related to the effects of PFAS on humans,” said Dr. Robert Laumbach, a professor of environment at Rutgers University who leads the Paulsboro study. .
Participants ’blood will be tested for a number of“ chemicals forever, ”some of which are now regulated by states including New Jersey. Tests will also look for some so-called substitute chemicals that have been developed in response to increased regulation, but can be just as toxic.
The study will not look for a correlation between PFAS and cancer because even with 8,000 adult participants nationwide the sample will be too small, Laumbach said. But it will test participants for other possible diseases, including those related to kidney function, cholesterol levels, hormone levels and the creation of antibodies to immunization.
Amid growing evidence that chemicals are common in the drinking water and blood of virtually every American, the Environmental Protection Agency is stepping up long-term efforts to set national standards for certain chemicals following stringent health restrictions recently imposed by some states, including New Jersey .
Paulsboro was chosen because his public water system was contaminated “forever with chemicals”. In 2013, one of the public wells found that PFNA exceeded the level that has since been set by New Jersey as a regulated health restriction. New Jersey officials have blamed that the source of the infection was the chemical company Solvay, based in nearby West Depford.
In November 2020, the Department of the Environment sued Solvay, said he was discharging PFAS into the environment, and not enough done for their cleaning.
“A key moment in the history of PFNA”
Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the environmental group Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said an effective start to the Polsbar testing program is important.
“The full launch of the study is a key milestone in PFNA history for the region,” said Carluccio, a longtime member of the campaign for legitimate restrictions on PFAS. “It will also help people understand the possible implications for their health and the health of their family. Blood sampling is the only way to know how PFAS exposure has affected the human body, and it is important that people know about it. ”
With more reliable data on the impact of PFAS on health, people will be able to make informed decisions about whether to continue living or working in Polsbar, Carluccio said.
“Without this information, people do not have everything they need to make important life decisions,” she said.
Although Paulsborough water now does not contain PFNA, thanks to installed filters, it is possible that people are still tolerating the chemical – with a half-life of four to five years, Laumbach said. The half-life is the time required for the concentration of a chemical to halve.
“Even if you don’t drink water contaminated with PFNA, it stays in your blood,” he said. “Ten years later it’s probably 25% of what it was when you first stopped drinking water.”
With the coronavirus pandemic apparently receding and the staffing problems of Rutgers ’previous team resolved, Polsbar officials are now stepping up their efforts to persuade locals to take part.
It is difficult to find volunteers
But finding enough volunteers was not easy. “It was a little difficult to get people to take part in the study, do a blood sample and do an hour-long interview,” Laumbach said. So far, 60 people have taken part in it.
He suggested that people are reluctant to perform due to fatigue after two years of COVID-19, even if they will contribute to national efforts to learn more about the health effects of chemicals.
Laumbach is offering participants $ 50 for sample delivery and a health survey. Children are offered an additional $ 25 for a behavioral health assessment that is designed to identify the link between PFAS exposure and functions such as memory and reasoning.
Financial incentives are not great, but private PFAS tests cost about $ 400 and are not covered by insurance, he said. They also offer participants a free screening of a number of non-PFAS-related diseases.
Aside from the benefits to personal health, Laumbach hopes people will be motivated to contribute to national health research.
“PFAS in drinking water is becoming so common,” he said. “Polsbare leads the country along with seven other sites in understanding the health effects of PFAS.”
Samples will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for analysis. The overall results are not expected to be published in about three years, but individual results will be communicated to participants much earlier, Laumbach said.