Two chemical compounds found in the drinking water supplies at or outside hundreds of active and closed military installations pose a risk to human health at much lower concentrations than previously indicated by federal regulators, according to a study released this week by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The toxicological study, which top Environmental Protection Agency and White House officials blocked from release earlier this year, found minimal risk levels — an estimate of how much a person could consume safely — at about 7 parts per trillion for PFOS and 11 ppt for PFOA. In 2016 EPA set lifetime health advisories for combined exposure to the two chemicals at 70 ppt, but the two metrics are not directly comparable. ATSDR used more and newer data in its study than EPA used for its 2016 analysis.
The study found that exposure in humans to PFOS and PFOA could be associated with pregnancy complications, thyroid issues, liver damage, asthma, decreased responsiveness to vaccines, decreased fertility, and kidney and testicular cancer, reported Military Times.
In a statement, EPA said it will continue its work on the substances with stakeholders, including ATSDR, reported the Hill. “Addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is one of EPA’s top priorities and the agency is committed to continuing to participate in and contribute to a coordinated approach across the federal government,” said Peter Grevatt, head of the agency’s office of ground water and drinking water.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) thanked the Department of Health and Human Services for releasing the report, after earlier calling on federal officials to take that action. “Based on this information, I encourage federal, state and local environmental regulators to examine whether they are appropriately communicating the risks presented by and adequately addressing the presence of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water,” said Turner, who represents a district addressing possible groundwater contamination stemming from the past use of firefighting foam on Wright-Patterson AFB.
Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caitlin Russell