What's at risk?

CDC and ATSDR launch PFAS exposure assessment in Newburgh

By Lina Wu
Posted 2/19/20

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry [ATSDR] announced the launch of the PFAS exposure assessment in the City of Newburgh last …

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What's at risk?

CDC and ATSDR launch PFAS exposure assessment in Newburgh

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry [ATSDR] announced the launch of the PFAS exposure assessment in the City of Newburgh last Tuesday in Newburgh’s Activity Center. Community members were invited to the launch to learn more about the assessment and ask questions.

The assessment’s results will help individual participants and communities better understand their exposure to PFAS. The results also may provide information to further reduce PFAS exposure.

Both agencies have identified a random selection of households exposed to PFAS through their drinking water through the City’s drinking water system. This selection includes households in the City of Newburgh and some in the Town of Newburgh.

“We need to know the human element,” said Mayor Torrance Harvey over the assessment. “We need to know the human effects of these contaminants that we have consumed as human beings, as Citizens.”

PFAS was found in Lake Washington in 2016. PFAS chemicals were linked back to the Stewart Air National Guard Base.

“You should have enough information to know exactly what PFAS does to every person here, and in the whole United States,” said Tom Roberts, a Newburgh resident. “To my understanding almost 90 percent of the world is contaminated by PFAS. This is really upsetting to me.”

PFAS chemicals have been around since 1930, and gradually became more common in everyday life.

“It appalls me a little bit that you want to go and find out what’s happening, when after almost 70 years we should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on,” said Roberts.

Dr. Christopher Reh, ATSDR Associate Director, said that it’s likely that most people have PFAS in their blood. “In the perfect world I would agree with you,” said Reh. “The problem [with having enough data on PFAS] is that we’ve just recently, in the scheme of things, started studying this.”

The exposure assessment hopes to hit 400 households. Even if the number is smaller, the assessment will still proceed.

A letter will be sent to selected households explaining the exposure assessment and registration process. An agency representative may visit the home to share information about the process. A representative will also call the household to ask selected individuals to answer questions and to register participants. If a household chooses to participate, an appointment will be scheduled.

“One thing I want to say throughout this whole process, we take protecting the privacy of the participant very seriously,” said Capt. Peter Kowalski of the ATSDR’s science support branch. Kowalski assured attendees that there are measures in place to ensure privacy.

Those who are eligible for participation must be three years of age or older. Children are only included with parental consent. Participants cannot have a bleeding disorder or anemia. One also must have lived in Newburgh for at least a year before May 2, 2016.

Participants will go to a testing site in the City, where a blood and urine sample will be taken. A questionnaire will be filled out at the site. Blood and urine samples will be analyzed by CDC laboratories for PFAS only. Test results will be mailed to participants.

Representatives emphasized that the study cannot determine whether or not PFAS levels on one’s blood or urine will make them sick now or later. The assessment also cannot determine whether or not a health condition was caused by PFAS exposure, how or where someone was exposed to PFAS, and exactly when or how long the exposure lasted.

“Those are the things we want you to answer,” said Harvey in response to what the study cannot do. “Those are things we need to know.”

The CDC and ATSDR also plan to collect drinking water and indoor dust samples from the homes of some participants. After results are reviewed and put into a final report, a community event will be hosted to discuss the results.

Participants do not need to speak English or be a U.S. Citizen. For questions, please contact Luis Rivera- Gonzalez at lqx8@cdc.gov or call 732-906-6933.

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