BENNINGTON — The state Department of Health will host a presentation to discuss the results of blood testing for PFOA in Bennington and North Bennington and the possible health effects for those exposed to the chemical.
The session will begin at 5 p.m. Jan. 26 at Tishman Lecture Hall on the Bennington College campus.
David Grass, environmental health surveillance chief with the department, said state officials and invited specialists will provide information and answer questions from residents.
He said participants will include Tarah Somers, senior regional representative for the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Alan Woolf, a pediatrician affiliated with Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the New England Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit.
Department of Health staff will discuss an analysis of the results of the PFOA blood testing, Grass said. That will include what was learned about how people were exposed to PFOA; the relationship between PFOA levels in blood and different modes of potential exposure, including working at or living near the former factory that is considered the likely source of the contamination; and whether any associations between PFOA levels and health problems were detected.
He said the results being discussed will be from initial testing conducted last year, not blood testing done in November. Those results are due in February.
The perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, contamination of water supplies in areas around the former Chemfab factory in North Bennington was identified in the spring, shortly after similar water supply contamination was found in nearby New York state communities, also in the vicinity of industrial operations.
PFOA was widely used in consumer products for decades, such as those containing Teflon and similar coatings. It has been detected at high levels at sites in several states, as well as in the blood of people exposed through drinking water and/or through industrial operations.
Testing also indicates the substance is present in at least low levels in the blood of most Americans.
Significant exposure is suspected to play a role in development of certain cancers and other diseases.
In July, the Department of Health released a preliminary report on blood testing involving 477 adults and children in the area conducted between April and June. The people tested had private drinking water supplies that were contaminated with PFOA or had lived near or worked at the now-closed Chemfab factory.
“Overall, the results for PFOA in blood range from 0.3 to 1125.6 micrograms/liter,” a department press release stated. “The geometric mean — a type of average — for the Bennington/North Bennington group is 10.0 micrograms/liter, higher than 2.1 micrograms/liter for the U.S. population. PFOA is found in the blood of most Americans.”
Copies of the results were sent to the participants’ health providers, and the department has taken steps to make information about the contamination available to all health care providers in the region.
The department also noted that in studies PFOA levels in blood have been shown to slowly decline after exposure through drinking water ends, but it can take two to four years for levels to fall by half after people stop drinking contaminated water.
In the November blood-draw clinics, 67 adults and 15 children were tested, according to Bennett Truman, public health communications officer with the department. He said those results are due next month.
More information about the PFOA contamination in the Bennington area is posted on the department’s website.