Federal Agency To Test for PFAS in People Near Military Bases

EWG: Nationwide Contamination Crisis Is an ‘Actual Emergency’
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For Immediate Release: 
Friday, February 22, 2019

WASHINGTON – The Center for Disease Control and Prevention will begin testing people who live in communities near current and former military installations for toxic fluorinated compounds, known as PFAS.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR, announced they will enlist volunteers from communities in eight states to have their blood and urine tested for PFAS.

The areas will focus on include Berkeley County, W.Va.; El Paso County, Colo.; Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska; Hampden County, Mass; Lubbock County, Texas; Orange County, N.Y.; New Castle County, Del.; and Spokane County, Wash.

CDC’s testing has found that virtually all Americans have PFAS in their blood or urine, but the upcoming assessments will measure whether people near the bases have higher levels of contamination.

Notably absent from the list are communities in North Carolina, Michigan and New Mexico that have serious PFAS contamination problems in part because of the extensive use of firefighting foam on nearby bases. It is unclear if the plan to include these and other affected locations in future assessments. But a news release said CDC and ATSDR are “laying the groundwork for CDC/ATSDR’s future multi-site health study that will look at the relationship between PFAS exposure and health outcomes.”

“While we are encouraged by this effort to understand the extent of PFAS contamination in these communities, we strongly urge CDC and ATSDR to widen the program to include other places struggling with this growing crisis,” said EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews, Ph.D. “The ballooning PFAS catastrophe is an actual emergency the Trump administration should be aggressively acting to combat.”

EWG and a team of researchers from Northeastern University have been mapping contaminated sites around the country and estimate that the drinking water for more than 110 million Americans could be contaminated with these chemicals. Last May, the Pentagon named 36 bases in 23 states where PFAS contaminates tap water or groundwater on or off base.  

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released a toothless PFAS “action plan” that was roundly panned by environmental and public health advocates as one that is not only woefully inadequate but would also actually make the contamination crisis worse.

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