New York State and Pennsylvania Strengthen State Biomonitoring Efforts for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

February 22, 2018|3:26 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

ASTHO recently awarded two $175,000 grants to the New York State Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to support biomonitoring efforts for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Through this grant funded by CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), these state health agencies will implement and evaluate CDC/ATSDR’s PFAS Exposure Assessment Technical Tools, which are designed to measure and evaluate community exposures to PFAS in drinking water.

PFAS is a collective term for several subclasses of manmade chemicals that have been produced for decades and continue to be manufactured in large amounts. Some, but not all, studies in humans with PFAS exposure have shown that certain PFAS may affect growth, learning, and behavioral patterns among infants and older children. They may also diminish a woman’s chances of getting pregnant, increase cholesterol levels, harm the immune system, and increase the risk of cancer.

PFAS are found in consumer products, industrial emissions, and firefighting foam. They are chemicals used to make household products resistant to heat, water, oil, and stains. Exposure most often occurs through contaminated food or drinking water. Federal agencies and state and local health departments are conducting community exposure investigations and complementary public health activities to address the potential health risks associated with PFAS.

“There is much concern about exposure to PFAS across the federal government, and we know states and communities are concerned as well,” says Pat Breysse, PhD, director of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and ATSDR. “We are developing tools to help states, territories, and communities better understand and address PFAS-contaminated drinking water.”

As work gets underway, the New York State Department of Health plans to provide feedback and share lessons learned surrounding the PFAS Exposure Assessment Technical Tools. The department hopes to identify barriers, improve best practices, and develop strategies to better inform the public of any potential PFAS-related health risks.

In Pennsylvania, the department of health has been involved in working with residents in the southeast region of the state who have expressed health concerns about PFAS exposure through their drinking water. State health department representatives have attended public meetings and analyzed data, including cancer incidence, to understand the health implications of PFAS exposure. This new project, which includes biomonitoring, will amplify on-the-ground public health efforts that have occurred in these communities for the past several years.

In June, public health leaders from New York state and Pennsylvania will present the results of their projects and accomplishments to CDC and ATSDR leadership. ASTHO will publish these reports for other state and territorial health agencies to use as resources when undertaking similar investigations. By providing feedback and evaluation data, the grantees will enable CDC and ATSDR to further refine the tools and provide the best support possible to health agencies dealing with this important public health issue.

Funding for this grant was made possible by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention award CDC-RFA-OT13-1302CONT17. To request a copy of the PFAS Exposure Assessment Technical Tools, email