PFAS Exposure Assessments
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will be conducting exposure assessments in communities near current or former military bases and that are known to have had PFAS in their drinking water. The primary goal of these exposure assessments is to provide information to communities about levels of PFAS in their bodies. This information will also be used to help inform future studies evaluating the impact of PFAS exposure on human health. People in each of these communities will be randomly selected to participate in these exposure assessments.
An exposure assessment is a way to look at whether people in a community might have been exposed to a certain type of substance in their environment. People are tested to see whether they have been exposed and answer questions to help identify possible sources. Using this information, public health professionals provide guidance to help people reduce or stop exposure. An exposure assessment does not look at what types of health problems the exposure might cause.
The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized CDC/ATSDR to look at PFAS exposure in communities near current or former military bases and that are known to have had PFAS in their drinking water. These exposure assessments will build upon the CDC/ATSDR-funded PFAS exposure assessment pilot work being done by the Pennsylvania Department of Health in Bucks and Montgomery Counties and by the New York State Department of Health in Westhampton.
The exposure assessments will:
- Lead to a better understanding of environmental factors that affect PFAS exposure. Communities might use this information to reduce PFAS exposure.
- Produce information that can be used by public health professionals across the nation to help communities impacted by PFAS.
- Inform future studies looking at the impact of PFAS exposure on human health, such as CDC/ATSDR’s planned multi-site health study.
- In communities where exposure assessments take place, the exposure assessments will:
- Give participants information about their individual exposures to PFAS.
- Help individual participants and their communities better understand their exposure to PFAS.
- Provide information that communities can use to reduce PFAS exposure.
CDC/ATSDR used a rigorous process to choose sites for the exposure assessments, starting by identifying all communities that were known to have PFAS in their drinking water. We then considered other factors, such as what kind of water supply the community had, how much PFAS was in the water, and whether it was near a military site. In addition, we looked at how long the exposure might have lasted, and how many people may have been exposed in the community. The sites also had to fit specific scientific criteria so that they will give CDC/ATSDR a good chance of learning information that is valuable to the selected communities, and to other communities facing similar PFAS exposure.
CDC/ATSDR will start work on the eight exposure assessments in 2019 and anticipates they will continue through 2020. We will meet with communities to introduce ourselves, share our plans, and answer questions about the exposure assessments. During this time the Pennsylvania Department of Health and New York State Department of Health will continue their work at the pilot sites. Participants will receive their individual test results with a written explanation as soon as they are available. We will also present overall findings and provide a written report to each community.
CDC/ATSDR will work closely with community members during the exposure assessments to:
• Answer their questions and hear their concerns
• Promote transparency
• Promote understanding