Chemicals made by the 3M Co. have been found in a new group of residents in Washington County, state officials said Thursday.
Traces of the chemicals — perfluorochemicals, or PFCs — were found in 196 study volunteers in Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove and Oakdale.
Finding the PFCs was not surprising, said Jean Johnson, who manages a PFC monitoring program for the state Department of Health.
“This is not a sign of any new public health risk,” Johnson said. “Most people have (PFCs), and we expected to see it.”
3M manufactured PFCs beginning in the 1940s — for use in various household products — and legally dumped PFCs in landfills in Washington County, ending in the 1970s.
In 2004, PFCs were found in drinking water in a wide area of Washington County, from Lake Elmo to Hastings.
Also that year, a team of lawyers suing 3M surveyed a group of residents and reached the same conclusion as the state study: higher-than-expected levels of PFCs.
Johnson said that the PFCs have been found in people and animals worldwide and exist in the bodies of 95 percent of Americans.
She said the recent study showed PFC levels were “slightly elevated.” She wouldn’t give details, saying the full report of the findings will be released at two upcoming public meetings.
Huge doses of PFCs have been shown harmful to laboratory rats, but 3M officials have said the traces of PFCs in drinking water are “harmless.” The Health Department says the amounts found in local water are within acceptable limits.
In the study, half of the participants were exposed to PFCs through private wells in Lake Elmo and Cottage Grove. The other half were believed to have been exposed through Oakdale city drinking water.
In most of the homes with private wells, 3M paid to cap the private wells and connect homes to city drinking water. In Oakdale, it supplied filters to clean PFCs out of city water.
That’s why Johnson believes the PFC levels found in residents will drop — the source of exposure to PFCs has been eliminated, she said.
In a lawsuit filed by several county residents against Maplewood-based 3M, Washington County District Judge Mary Hannon ruled in January that the chemicals did not cause physical injury or even emotional distress.
The public meetings will be July 21 at Skyview Elementary School, 1100 Heron Ave. N., in Oakdale, and July 22 at Cottage Grove City Hall, 7516 80th St. S.
Both meetings will be from 6 to 9 p.m., beginning with an open house followed by a 7 p.m. presentation.