No higher incidences of certain types of cancer linked to the toxic chemical PFOA were found in an upstate New York village whose water supplies were contaminated by the chemical, state health officials said in a report released Wednesday.
The investigation in Hoosick Falls found lower-than-normal rates of four types of cancer linked to exposure to PFOA, a chemical long used in the manufacture of Teflon and similar materials.
Researchers analyzed data for 20 types of cancer in the state’s cancer registry from 1995 through 2014, the same year elevated levels of PFOA were found in the village’s public water system. The only type of cancer found to be elevated was lung cancer, which has not been linked to PFOA exposure by scientific studies.
The findings have been mailed to residents in the Rensselaer County village near the Vermont border and health officials have scheduled a series of public sessions to discuss them.
“Our study was not answering the question of whether PFOA causes cancer. We leave that to other groups,” said Brad Hutton, deputy commissioner of public health. “We can’t tell a person with cancer whether it was because of exposure to PFOA.”
Hutton said the study also doesn’t address other health problems linked by some studies to PFOA exposure, such as developmental problems in infants, liver damage, thyroid effects, immune problems and cholesterol changes.
Contamination of the village’s water supply was first discovered in testing in 2014 by a resident who was concerned about a series of cancer deaths, including his father’s death from kidney cancer after working for decades at a plastics plant that used PFOA.
The Environmental Protection Agency and state have since overseen installation of filtration systems on the municipal water supply and hundreds of private wells, and about 3,000 residents have had their blood tested for PFOA.
The study was greeted with skepticism by residents and environmentalists who have been critical of the state health agency since it initially assured people the water was safe.
The report “raises more questions than it answers,” said Judith Enck, the former EPA regional administrator who first told village residents not to drink their tap water, contradicting a state advisory. “It illustrates the need for long term health monitoring,” she said.