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Unofficial PFOA health survey results unveiled in Merrimack

Union Leader Correspondent

August 17. 2017 12:54AM
State Rep. Jim McConnell speaks Wednesday to a group of citizens in Merrimack about the dangers of perfluorochemicals. (Kimberly Houghton/Correspondent)

MERRIMACK — Results from an unscientific citizen-led health survey were released to the public on Wednesday, revealing numerous medical conditions that advocates say could possibly be related to exposure to perfluorochemicals.

A local group, Citizens for Clean Water, conducted the recent online survey that was completed by 568 individuals, which included a total of 209 households.

According to the data unveiled during a public meeting Wednesday night, 75 of the Merrimack residents who completed the survey had no qualifying health conditions related to perfluorooctanoic acid exposure, while 122 of them had one qualifying condition and 75 of them had two or more qualifying conditions.

Those conditions include health issues such as high cholesterol, thyroid problems, autoimmune disorders, ulcerative colitis, kidney problems, diabetes, cancer, preeclampsia, low birth rate, delayed puberty and increased uric acid.

“This is something we need to look at further,” said Laurene Allen of Citizens for Clean Water and the organizer of the survey. “This is preliminary, but it is pretty significant.”

State Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye told the group of about 40 people in attendance that water contamination has become a nationwide issue and that the health impacts related to PFOA exposure are believed to be liver, testicular and pancreatic cancer, among other illnesses.

Last fall, state officials announced that a blood testing program would be implemented to determine whether local public water customers have been exposed to perfluorochemicals.

The program was prompted after the Merrimack Town Council requested that the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services conduct a random blood sampling of customers that utilize water from the Merrimack Village District, which serves about 25,000 customers in the area. More than 200 MVD customers have had their blood sampled, however those results have not yet been made public.

Previously, DHHS announced that blood testing is available for select residents on private wells near Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack — the likely source of water contamination discovered last year and resulting in the distribution of bottled water to more than 500 properties in the region.

“We are going to go to DHHS and ask for (more) blood testing,” said Allen, adding the results from the unofficial health survey will also be provided to state officials.

State Rep. Jim McConnell said that the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is “behind the curve” on its response to the PFOA problem that originated in water sources in southern New Hampshire last year.

“The problem here is chronic toxicity,” said McConnell.

Earlier this year, initial test results from dozens of blood samples taken from residents in southern New Hampshire with private wells revealed more than double the amount of PFOA contamination in the blood stream compared to the average U.S. population.

Saint-Gobain has already connected 260 homes with contaminated wells in southern New Hampshire to public water supplies, most of them located in Litchfield. The company has agreed to fund public water line extensions to a total of nearly 500 homes in the region, according to state officials, who said recently that more than half of that work has already been completed.

General News Health Merrimack

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