WKU - Study Finds Widespread Contamination of Ohio Valley Drinking Water

August 9, 2016

By Glynis Board

Excerpt: A study of drinking water systems found 6 million Americans, including people in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio, are living with drinking water containing chemicals linked to a host of health problems.

The Harvard Chan School of Public Health published research in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters that delves into thousands of drinking water samples from across the nation. Researchers looked for certain chemicals – called “perfluorinated” compounds – which are linked to cancer and other health problems. We’ve been using these chemicals for decades in food wrappers, clothing, carpets, and on nonstick pots and pans.

Researcher Laurel Schaider of the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Massachusetts, noted where concentrations were highest, and what possible sources of contamination exist.

“We found that water supplies close to industry, airports, and wastewater treatment facilities were more likely to have perfluorinated chemicals,” she said.

Contamination of water supplies was most prevalent in 13 states including Ohio. Chemicals were also detectable in Kentucky as well as in West Virginia.

Schaider said a contamination incident in Ohio and West Virginia a decade ago first pointed to health concerns related to this class of chemicals. In 2005 it came to light that the chemical company DuPont contaminated water sources in the Ohio Valley with a perfluorinated chemical called “PFOA” or “C8”. A lawsuit on behalf of affected residents established a broad medical study, which Schaider says paved the way for further science.

“A lot of what we know about the human health effects of PFOA come from the Ohio River Valley and the C8 study,” she said. “Over 30,000 community members were involved in a health study and the results showed that there were six health effects that were linked to their PFOA exposure.”

Highly Fluorinated Chemicals (PFASs)