The Department of Health announced today that Pennsylvania has received a $5 million, five-year federal grant to continue work to study the health effects of exposure to PFAS contaminated drinking water in Bucks and Montgomery counties.
"This grant will expand our ongoing research efforts to determine the extent of residents' exposure to PFAS in Bucks and Montgomery counties while contributing to a larger, national study to look at the health impacts of these chemicals," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. "PFAS contamination is an emerging public health issue across Pennsylvania and the country. We hope that our work in this area will help those who have been affected by these chemicals."
The grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will allow the department to work with Research Triangle Institute International (RTI) of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and Temple University to further study the health effects of PFAS in Bucks and Montgomery counties.
Research will include a detailed summary of the site, reconstruction of past exposures through drinking water and the recruitment of adults and children to be part of a health study. Those recruited into the health study will receive additional medical tests, including blood sampling, and review of their medical records to better understand health effects associated with PFAS. In 2018, the department conducted a similar, smaller pilot-study where blood samples were collected from residents who lived in the area before July 2016.
This work is the latest effort of Governor Tom Wolf's PFAS Action Team. On September 19, 2018, Governor Wolf signed an executive order forming a PFAS Action Team. The PFAS Action Team is responsible for developing a comprehensive response to identify and eliminate the sources of contamination and led by the secretaries of Environmental Protection; Health; Military and Veteran Affairs; Community and Economic Development; Agriculture and the State Fire Commissioner.
PFAS substances were commonly used in applications including surface coating of paper and cardboard packaging products, carpets, non-stick pans and textiles, as well as firefighting foams. These substances have been detected in air, water and soil and around production manufacturing facilities as well as airports and military bases which utilized firefighting foams.
Companies began phasing out the production and use of several PFAS substances in the early 2000s, and two of the most well studied—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)—are no longer manufactured in the United States.
Despite the phase-out, contamination has been identified at 19 sites in Pennsylvania, each of which are being addressed by state and federal cleanup efforts.
More information on PFAS can be found on the Department of Health's website at www.health.pa.gov or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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