Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in Homes and Gardens Study (PIHGS)
Environmental Exposure to PFCs: Soil, Produce, and Dust
This Web page explains an environmental assessment done by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) with help from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Field sampling for this research study occurred in 2010. A final report is estimated to be released in summer 2014.
Since 2004, local and state agencies have been responding to the presence of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in drinking water supplies in several eastern Twin Cities communities. Wells with levels of PFCs exceeding Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) health-based criteria have been identified and addressed through installation of granular activated carbon (GAC) filtration systems, or hooked up to city water. Residents now drink water with no to low levels of PFCs.
Drinking water is safe. However, it is possible people may be exposed to PFCs from other sources, such as a vegetable garden or bare soil in a yard that contain PFCs. PFCs have been released to the environment by watering lawns and gardens using water sources that contain PFCs. PFCs stay in the environment for a long time after they have been released. Water sources used in gardening may still contain PFCs if the outdoor taps used to water yards and gardens are left unfiltered at homes with private wells. Some PFCs may also “break through” GAC filters used in private or public water systems.
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Purpose of this environmental assessment
This study looked at soil, home-grown produce, and house dust from residential homes in Oakdale, Lake Elmo, and Cottage Grove to find out if people may be exposed to PFCs from these environmental sources.
Why is this important?
PFCs have been found at low levels in the blood of people in the U.S. and around the world. Drinking water contaminated with PFCs is one way people may be exposed to PFCs. People who have been exposed to PFCs in their drinking water have levels of PFCs in their blood that are higher than national averages, including participants in a recent study of nearly 200 residents of Oakdale, Lake Elmo, and Cottage Grove.
Another way people may be exposed to PFCs is through food. PFCs have been found in fish from several lakes and rivers in Minnesota. In addition, plants can take up PFCs if they are grown in soil that contains PFCs, or if they are watered with PFC-containing water. Two studies outside of Minnesota in communities with PFCs in their drinking water have found an association between consuming home-grown or home-canned produce and higher PFC levels in blood.
Studies also found PFCs in indoor dust, most likely from consumer products.
How was the study done?
Twenty participants were chosen from eligible homes in Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove, and Oakdale. Three control sites outside of the East Metro were also selected to provide background levels of PFCs in soil and produce in the Twin Cities metro area. The study involved answering three short surveys about gardening, watering, and cleaning habits. It also involved collecting water, garden soil, house dust, and produce samples (tomatoes, peppers, peas, lettuce, etc.) during the 2010 growing season. The MDH Public Health Laboratory analyzed the samples. All data collected during the project was considered private information.
What were the study results and how will they be communicated?
MDH is working on a complete study report for the project. The report is expected to be released in summer 2014. MPCA, local community representatives, and participants will be notified when the report is posted on the MDH website. The report will be available as a download from the MDH website or as a hard copy by request only.
Summary of results:
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