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ATSDR Press Room

ATSDR Releases Report on Exposure to Perfluorochemicals in the Vicinity of Decatur, Alabama


Morgan County, Decatur, Alabama

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) today releases the results of an exposure investigation of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in residents of Lawrence, Morgan and Limestone Counties in Alabama. ATSDR officials will present the results of their exposure investigation at a public availability session tomorrow April 2nd, from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM at the Moulton Recreation Center, 13550 Court Street, Moulton, AL.

The exposure investigation found that drinking well or public water with detectable levels of PFCs may contribute to an increase of PFC levels in blood. The exposure investigation did not find a link between living near a biosolids-treated field and the PFC levels in blood.

PFCs are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used for many years to make products that resist heat, stains, grease and water. In most cases the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate PFCs at this time. EPA has established a Provisional Health Advisory value for certain PFCs in drinking water.

A recent study, by the C8 Science Panel, showed a possible link between PFC exposure and health effects. PFC levels in that study were approximately twice the level found in the Decatur, AL investigation. However, more research is needed to show a relationship to specific diseases and the level of PFCs in blood associated with the health effect, according to the investigation report.

ATSDR recommends environmental and public health agencies take the following actions to protect resident’s health from exposures to PFCs:

  • Continue to monitor the level of PFCs present in the Tennessee River which is used as source water for the West Morgan/East Lawrence public water supply system and other public water supplies downstream of Decatur, Alabama
  • Inform the community about recent research about possible health effects of PFC exposure.
  • Consider periodic monitoring for PFCs in private drinking water wells located on or near biosolids application fields not previously tested. Residents using private drinking water wells that were previously tested and found to be negative should also consider periodic monitoring for PFCs.
  • If levels of PFCs rise above EPA’s Provisional Health Advisory levels in private drinking water wells, residents should use alternate drinking water sources.

The exposure investigation was undertaken after a PFC manufacturer notified the EPA in 2007 that it had inadvertently discharged large amounts of perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCA) into the Decatur Utilities’ Dry Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant removes solids and chemicals from the wastewater it treats. These “biosolids” were used to fertilize fields in the area.

Between 2007 and 2009 the EPA tested biosolids and soil from the fields, results showed elevated levels of PFCs compared to the average expected amounts (background levels). EPA later found PFC chemicals in the Decatur Utilities’ biosolids, in soils from the agricultural fields treated with the biosolids, and in surface water, ground water, and drinking water from private wells, and the West Morgan/East Lawrence public water system.

During the investigation, ATSDR offered blood tests to people who lived on or near fields that received biosolids from Decatur Utilities, had private drinking water wells located near these fields, or drank water from the West Morgan/East Lawrence public water system. The agency tested people’s blood for PFC’s to determine if they had elevated exposure as compared to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES is a national survey that includes measuring chemicals in people’s bodies. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes/about_nhanes.htm

The exposure investigation called Perfluorochemical Serum Sampling in the Vicinity of Decatur, Alabama, is available for review at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/hac/pha/HCPHA.asp?State=AL

For more information contact ATSDR at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).

###

NOTE: A media availability session will be held from 4:30 PM-5:00 PM.

ATSDR, a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, evaluates the potential for adverse human health effects due to exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.

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Related PHA & HC For this Press Release


Perfluorochemical Serum Sampling in the Vincinty of Decatur, Alabama
-Information Update (02/07/2014)
Document Date: 4/1/2013 - EI  [PDF - 161 KB]

Perfluorochemical Serum Sampling in the Vincinty of Decatur, Alabama
-Blood PFC Testing and Health Information Summary
Document Date: 4/1/2013 - EI  [PDF - 310 KB]

Perfluorochemical Serum Sampling in the Vincinty of Decatur, Alabama
-Exposure Investigation Report
Document Date: 4/1/2013 - EI  [PDF - 1879 KB]

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Related News Releases For Morgan County, Decatur, Alabama

 

Public Availability Session for PFC Exposure Investigation
Release Date: Monday, March 18, 2013
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) invites residents of Lawrence, Morgan, and Limestone Counties to attend a public availability session about an exposure investigation of perfluorochemicals (PFCs).

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