UPDATE: EPA issues health advisory on effects of PFOA found in some NH drinking water
WASHINGTON D.C. - The Environmental Protection Agency has released a report on the health risks of chemical contaminants PFOA and PFOS recently found in New Hampshire drinking water sources, including Litchfield.
The agency report says that concentrations of PFOA and PFOS levels should be below 70 parts per trillion. If the level is higher, the water system operators should quickly conduct additional sampling to "assess the level, scope and source of contamination." Public notification is especially important for pregnant or nursing women because of the impact these chemicals can have on the development of fetuses and breastfed or formula-fed infants, the EPA reported.
The report found long-term exposure to PFOA or PFOS in excess of 70 parts per trillion can lead to:
- Developmental defects to fetuses in pregnancy and breast-feeding infants, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations
- Cancer, including testicular and kidney cancer
- Liver issues
- Compromised immunity and other similar issues
- Thyroid effects
To reduce the levels, the EPA says the problem can be reduced by closing contaminated wells and public water system can treat water with activated carbon or high pressure membrane systems. For those with private wells, the EPA says some home drinking water treatments use the same processes to remove contaminants, but there are no standards to determine their effectiveness. In some communities including Litchfield, entities have provided bottled water to consumers while steps to reduce or remove PFOA or PFOS from drinking water or to establish a new water supply are completed.
For many years, PFOA and PFOS were widely used in carpets, clothing, furniture fabrics, food packaging, and other materials to make them more resistant to water, grease, and stains. PFOA and PFOS were also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes. Between 2000 and 2002, PFOS was voluntarily phased out of production in the U.S. by its primary manufacturer. And EPA asked eight major companies to commit to eliminate their production and use of PFOA by the end of 2015 and they have indicated that they have met their commitments. While there are some limited ongoing uses of these chemicals, in recent years, blood testing data has shown that exposures are declining across the country.