Residents in south NJ town asked to test blood after chemicals found in water
PAULSBORO — The South Jersey town is one of eight sites in the U.S. as part of a national investigation into exposure to chemicals in drinking water.
Paulsboro residents are invited to have their blood and urine tested to see if their health has been affected by these chemicals.
Dr. Robert Laumbach, associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Rutgers School of Public Health and The Environmental and Occupational Health Science Institute, is the lead on this study.
He said many people are concerned about the health effects of PFA chemicals found in the blood of almost every person tested. In Paulsboro, there is the contamination of the drinking water but nobody is sure when it started. These chemicals stay in the blood for a long period of time.
While researchers don't know how long the water in Paulsboro has been contaminated, they also don't know much about the health effects of these chemicals. That's why the study is being done.
Laumbach said these PFA chemicals are used in a lot of consumer products. One of the big problems is that these chemicals don't break down in the environment, which is why they are called "forever chemicals." They also accumulate in our bodies over time.
In animal studies as well as some human studies, there have been adverse effects on parts of the body including the liver, kidneys, and immune system.
But Laumbach is concerned because researchers just don't know what that level of exposure might be. They just know there is evidence of adverse health effects.
"We hope to learn more about the specific health effects of these chemicals and also at what level of exposure we should be concerned about because these chemicals don't break down in the environment. They are found in more and more drinking water sources, they're found in the dust at home, they're found in various places," Laumbach said.
What is scary, he said, is that in New Jersey, there are at least half a million residents who get their water from sources that are contaminated with PFAs at levels that exceeded the state standards on drinking levels of these compounds.
These forever chemicals are being found in almost everyone's bodies who get tested, he said. It's a chemical that's being distributed throughout the environment, getting into people's bodies and researchers need to learn more about the health effects so they can take reasonable action to reduce the exposure, Laumbach said.
In a smaller study done years ago in Paulsboro, he said people who had higher levels of a PFNA chemical found in the water supply were at the highest level ever found in the world in drinking water.
Laumbach said what they found was that residents who had higher levels of this PFNA chemical in their blood also had higher levels of cholesterol. So if people are aware of this, they can get screened and receive medical treatment to prevent high cholesterol.
"Now and as well as in the future, results of our study will be that people will know their PFAs levels," Laumbach said.
Currently, people can get these tests done but it costs $400 or more and it's not covered by insurance. But with the study, people can find out their PFAs levels for free, then inform their medical care providers to determine the next steps.
The Paulsboro study just started and so far 60 adults and one child have been tested. Laumbach hopes to get 1,000 adults and 300 children tested.
Paulsboro residents can also call 856-599-1205 to inquire about the study.
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