Fluoride Action Network

Non-stick chemicals in NJ drinking water: Updated

Source: WHYY News & Information | May 21st, 2009 | By Kerry Grens
Industry type: Perfluorinated chemicals

PFOA is used to make Teflon and other coatings. Scientists in New Jersey found the chemical in municipal drinking water in Gloucester and Salem counties, along with about a dozen others. The DuPont plant in South Jersey uses PFOA. Jane Nogaki, the vice chair of the New Jersey Environmental Federation says she was surprised by the prevalence of PFOA.

Nogaki: We expected that it might be found right around the plant, in the perimeter. But we were surprised that it would be found in wells several miles away in municipal wells.

Rutgers professor Keith Cooper, who was part of the study, says the levels he observed are concerning because the chemical can stick around in humans.

Cooper: Anytime you have a compound that can bio-accumulate and has a very long half life in the blood of humans has the potential to cause problems.

Cooper says drinking water concentrations should be lower than current federal guidelines. In a statement, DuPont says it will provide bottled water if communities exceed those federal guidelines. None have so far. Cooper says PFOA can accumulate in the blood to concentrations 100 times that of drinking water.The chemical is known to have negative health effects in animals, but researchers are still studying the effects on humans. DuPont is phasing out PFOA by 2015.


The study:

Journal: Environmental Science & Technology, May 8, 2009

Title: Occurrence and Potential Significance of Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) Detected in New Jersey Public Drinking Water Systems

Authors: Gloria B. Post, Judith B. Louis, Keith R. Cooper, Betty Jane Boros-Russo and R. Lee Lippincott

Affiliation: Division of Science, Research and Technology, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, P.O. Box 409, Trenton, New Jersey 08625, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Rutgers University, 76 Lipman Drive, Room 218, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, and Bureau of Safe Drinking Water, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, P.O. Box 426, Trenton, New Jersey 08625

Abstract: After detection of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in two New Jersey (NJ) public water systems (PWS) at concentrations up to 0.19 ?g/L, a study of PFOA in 23 other NJ PWS was conducted in 2006. PFOA was detected in 15 (65%) of the systems at concentrations ranging from 0.005 to 0.039 ?g/L. To assess the significance of these data, the contribution of drinking water to human exposure to PFOA was evaluated, and a health-based drinking water concentration protective for lifetime exposure of 0.04 ?g/L was developed through a risk assessment approach. Both the exposure assessment and the health-based drinking water concentrations are based on the previously reported 100:1 ratio between the concentration of PFOA in serum and drinking water in a community with highly contaminated drinking water. The applicability of this ratio to lower drinking water concentrations was confirmed using data on serum levels and water concentrations from other communities. The health-based concentration is based on toxicological end points identified by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in its 2005 draft risk assessment. Recent information on PFOA’s toxicity not considered in the USEPA risk assessment further supports the health-based concentration of 0.04 ?g/L. In additional sampling of 18 PWS in 2007?2008, PFOA in most systems was below the health-based concentration. However, PFOA was detected above the health-based concentration in five systems, including one not previously sampled.