PFOA in Drinking Water 2016

PFOA in Drinking Water 2016

Howard Weiss-Tisman/VPR
Photo by Howard Weiss Tisman/VPR

Summary of events

Following news in early 2016 of PFOA-contaminated municipal water wells in Hoosick Falls, New York, and concerns about the former Chemfab property in North Bennington, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources/Department of Environmental Conservation sampled five private drinking water wells and the No. Bennington municipal water supply for perfluorinated compounds and volatile organic compounds. The five private wells tested showed the presence of perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) at concentrations ranging from 40 to 2,880 parts per trillion. These levels were above the Vermont Department of Health’s drinking water health advisory level of 20 parts per trillion. The Department of Environmental Conservation continued to test residential drinking water wells in North Bennington and Bennington.

In February 2016, the Health Department alerted area health care providers, and in April began offering PFOA blood testing for affected residents. Results of those tests were announced in July. 7/26/2016 NEWS: Health Department announces PFOA blood test results

On January 26, 2017, the Health Department presented a summary of the results its PFOA blood testing and exposure assessment. The study confirmed that drinking water from contaminated wells was the primary source of exposure to PFOA. 1/26/2017 NEWS: Health Dept. Releases PFOA Blood Test & Exposure Assessment Results  

The State of Vermont's investigation and response continues, and included environmental testing in other areas of the state. For more information about the testing, public meetings, and related non-health aspects of the state's actions: Visit the Department of Environmental Conservation website For more information about agricultural products, read the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets FAQs about gardening, commercial produce and PFOA.

Public Information Line – Dial 2-1-1
This is the call line for residents who have questions about PFOA contamination, or to request a water test. 

For questions about the health effects of PFOA:
Call the Vermont Department of Health toll-free at 800-439-8550.

Chemfab & PFOA

Chemfab operated in North Bennington from 1970 through 2000, when it was purchased by Saint-Gobain. The Vermont facility closed in 2002 and moved to New Hampshire. The facility primarily applied PTFE (Teflon) coatings to fiberglass fabrics by dip-coating the fabrics in a liquid bath of micron size PTFE particles and various additives (likely including PFOA) followed by heating in ovens to dry and melt the Teflon onto the fabric.

PFOA is used in the production of Teflon, which may contain residual PFOA in the final product. PFOA also has uses as a surfactant and dispersant in various products, including application of Teflon to fabrics and wires.

What is PFOA?

PFOA is a manufactured chemical that belongs to a group of chemicals used to make household and commercial products that resist heat and chemical reactions, and repel oil, stains, grease and water.

These chemicals are widely found in nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, water repellant clothing, paper and cardboard food packaging and fire-fighting foam.

PFOA does not break down easily and therefore persists for a very long time in the environment, especially in water. Its toxicity and persistence in the environment means it is a potential danger to human health and the environment.

Find more information about PFOA and drinking water

PFOA Blood Testing and Blood Draw Clinics

The Health Department, with support from Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, conducted a series of PFOA blood draw clinics as part of the State of Vermont's response to PFOA contamination of private drinking water wells in the North Bennington and Bennington areas, where detections of PFOA ranged from non-detect to nearly 3,000 parts per trillion.

The blood testing is a way to learn more about people's actual exposure to PFOA. It will also tell us how the levels of PFOA in the blood of people living in the North Bennington and Bennington area compared to people living elsewhere. 

The blood test cannot tell if your exposure to PFOA will cause you health problems, or if a condition you have was caused by PFOA. The information can become part of your medical history, and may help inform discussions about your health with your doctor.

Blood Draw Clinic Scheduled for June 2017

A blood draw clinic has been scheduled for June 6, 2017, at the Health Department’s Bennington Local Health Office. 

Eligibility for Blood Testing – You are eligible if:

  1. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation tested the well of the home in North Bennington or Bennington where you live now, or where you lived any time in the past eight years, AND/OR,
  2. You worked or lived at the former Chemfab/Saint-Gobain site at 940/1030 Water Street in North Bennington - OR - you work or live there now. AND,
  3. You have not yet had your blood tested for PFOA by the Vermont Department of Health.

Clinic Registration

Online registration for the June 6 clinic has closed. To speak to someone about registration please call the Department of Health toll-free at 800-439-8550.

People who are eligible for the clinic will be contacted by Health Department staff to set an appointment.

If you are not eligible, but want to have your blood tested for PFOA, please contact your health care provider.

Test Results – In July 2016, the Health Department mailed results to each person who took part in the earlier blood testing clinics. In early 2017, the Health Department mailed results to each person who took part in the November 2016 blood draw clinic.

Qs & As about Blood Testing

What will my blood be tested for?
Your blood will be tested for perfluorooctanoic acide (PFOA). Your blood will not be tested for any other chemicals. Your blood will not be used for any genetic testing or drug testing.

Where were blood tests offered?
The Health Department conducted blood testing clinics for people in the North Bennington and Bennington area, where private drinking water wells have had detections of PFOA ranging from non-detect to nearly 3,000 parts per trillion. The blood testing will help answer questions residents have about their exposure.

If your drinking water is contaminated with PFOA, and it was your main source of drinking water and food preparation before learning about the PFOA contamination, you will probably have more PFOA in your blood than most people in the U.S. The higher the concentration of PFOA in your drinking water, the higher the level of PFOA will likely be in your blood.

The blood test cannot tell if your exposure to PFOA will cause you health problems, or if a condition you have was caused by PFOA. 

Many other communities throughout the country with PFOA drinking water contamination have also provided blood testing for PFOA. The Health Department will use the data on PFOA in blood to learn more about how people in your community are exposed to the chemical. We hope to learn more about the relationship between drinking water containing PFOA, working or living at the former Chemfab/Saint-Gobain site, and PFOA blood levels.

Who performs the testing?
Blood serum is sent to a specialized laboratory that can analyze for PFOA. That laboratory will send the results back to the Health Department. Your sample that is sent to the laboratory will not have your name on it. All the information that the Health Department collects to identify you will be kept at the Health Department.

How will I find my results?
Once the Health Department receives the PFOA blood data results from the laboratory, we will send your results in the mail.

Qs & As about your blood test results

Sample Letter: Your Blood Test Results

Blood Test & Exposure Assessment Results • January 2017

In late July 2016, the Health Department mailed results to each person who took part in the blood testing clinics, and mailed a copy to their health provider if requested by the individual.

Overall, the results for PFOA in blood range from 0.3 to 1125.6 micrograms/Liter (µg/L). The geometric mean – a type of average – for the Bennington/North Bennington group is 10.0 µg/L, compared to 2.1 µg/L for the U.S. population.

Most people in the U.S have less than 5.7 µg/L of PFOA in their blood. "Most" represents the 95th percentile for the U.S. population. In other words, 95% of the people sampled had results below 5.7 µg/L. The 95th percentile is 158.8 µg/L.

In a mid-Ohio Valley community with PFOA-contaminated drinking water, residents living near a chemical plant had a mean level of PFOA in blood of 32.9 µg/L. People who are exposed occupationally to PFOA typically have higher levels of PFOA in their blood than the general U.S. population. One study of workers in Decatur, Alabama had a mean level of PFOA in blood of 1130 µg/L.
PFOA Blood Testing & Exposure Assessment • Report
PFOA Blood Testing & Exposure Assessment Presentation • Slides
PFOA Blood Testing & Exposure Assessment • Summary of Results

More Information for Health Professionals

For questions about the health effects of PFOA:
Call the Health Department toll-free at 800-439-8550
Find recent health alerts and advisories
Find more information about PFOA and drinking water
Read ATSDR fact sheet and guidance for clinicians

PFOA Exposure & Health Studies - C8 Project
From 2005 to 2013, a series of epidemiologic (exposure and ehalth) studies were conducted on almost 70,000 individuals in West Virginia who had drinking water that was contaminated with PFOA. The goal of the project was to assess the links between PFOA (commonly referred to as C8) and a number of diseases. Find out more about the C8 Science Panel 

Agency of Toxic substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR)
ATSDR is part of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. ATSDR published a toxicological profile for PFOA and the related perfluoroalkyl chemicals. ATSDR uses a weight-of-evidence approach to evaluate whether the available data supported a link between exposure and a particular health effect. You can view the webpage, and download the PDF of the toxicological profile to read more about the scientific studies.

ATSDR has also added to their website resources for health care providers who want to know more about perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and related chemicals. PFOA and PFOS are both per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS). The website includes guidance to help clinicians discuss with their patients concerns and questions about levels of such chemicals in blood, and offers Continuing Medical Education for clinicians who wish to learn more about PFAS and earn CME credits:

Environmental Protection Agency
EPA also has a draft health effects document for PFOA, listed as Health Effects Document for Perfluorooctanoic Acid.

For more information about the State's actions, including water testing:
Visit the Department of Environmental Conservation website