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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

State: Bennington Residents Who Consumed Water With PFOA Have It In Their Blood

Howard Weiss-Tisman
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen released the results from blood tests taken from people who consumed water contaminated with PFOA.

Vermont's Health Commissioner says people in Bennington who consumed water with the industrial chemical PFOA have detectable levels of the chemical in their bodies.

Dr. Harry Chen was in Bennington Thursday sharing the results from the blood tests the state did on 472 people in the area.

"The tests do show that there is a strong correlation between PFOA concentrations in water and PFOA levels in the blood," Chen said.

Chen said the tests also show that the levels of PFOA in the blood increase with cumulative exposure over years.

PFOA was used at a factory in North Bennington owned by the company Saint Gobain, and the state says the plant polluted about 270 wells in the area.

The chemical has been linked to testicular and kidney cancer, as well as immune system problems, but the blood tests can't determine if exposure will lead to adverse health outcomes.

"I'd acknowledge how relatively unsatisfactory it is to have all of this uncertainty," Chen said. "I can't tell you that this level will have this problem, or this level won't have this problem."

PFOA exposure is also associated with pregnancy-induced hypertension, decreased birth weights and increased blood lipids, uric acid and liver enzymes.

The chemical is found in low levels throughout the  country and Chen said the average American has about 2.1 micrograms per liter in their blood.

The tests show that the average Bennington resident who was tested has levels slightly above 10 micrograms per liter.

The highest levels in Bennington exceeded 60 micrograms per liter.

Chen said the state has been working with local doctors to provide information and guidance.

Once people stop drinking contaminated water, PFOA leaves the body and blood levels decrease by half about every three years.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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