January 12, 2016
PFC levels continue decline in East Metro residents
Levels of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in the blood of long-time East Metro residents continue to go down after steps taken in 2006 reduced PFCs in their drinking water to levels that pose no health risk. That’s the central finding from the latest project by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to measure levels of PFCs in the blood of Washington County residents exposed to the chemicals through drinking water.
Known as the East Metro PFC3 Biomonitoring Project, the project’s findings confirm that efforts to reduce PFCs in drinking water below levels that pose a health risk are working, state health officials concluded in their report. Another key finding was that PFC levels in people who moved to Oakdale, one of the impacted East Metro communities, after 2006 are similar to levels seen elsewhere in the U.S.
Beginning in 2004, some East Metro drinking water sources were found to be polluted with PFCs at potentially unsafe levels. The chemicals, used to make products that resist stains, grease, water and heat, got into drinking water from old dumps that leached the chemicals into groundwater. In 2006, filtration systems were installed in both public (municipal) and private wells and some private well owners were connected to city water, reducing residents’ exposure to PFCs in drinking water to protective levels.
In order to find out if those measures were making a difference, MDH in 2008 began tracking blood levels of PFCs in people in the cities of Oakdale, Lake Elmo and Cottage Grove as directed by the Minnesota Legislature. Blood levels were also measured in 2010 and decreases in levels were found in that study. In this third and latest round in 2014, researchers measured blood levels of eight different PFCs in the following two groups of East Metro residents:
- 149 long-term residents of Oakdale, Lake Elmo and Cottage Grove, who were exposed to PFCs in drinking water before the intervention and who participated in past studies;
- 156 new Oakdale residents who moved to the area after the intervention.
“Levels in long-time residents went down by 35 percent to 60 percent from what they were in 2008,” said Jessica Nelson, the lead investigator on the project. “While still above average U.S. levels, they are getting closer. It’s certainly good news that levels in long-term residents continue to drop as we’d expect them to, and that newer residents don’t appear to have unusual exposures to PFCs.”
Researchers said low blood levels of PFCs like those in new Oakdale residents and the U.S. population are likely due to ongoing contact with PFCs in products and foods. While there is not scientific agreement on whether PFCs cause illnesses in people, researchers continue to study the issue.
More details can be found in the complete report on the MDH website at PFC Biomonitoring: East Metro (PDF).