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Defense act includes study of PFC impacts

PORTSMOUTH -- The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the U.S. Senate Monday includes an amendment by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for the first-ever national health study on the effects of PFC exposure.

The Shaheen amendment directs the Department of Defense to pay for the nationwide study on the health effects of people exposed to PFCs in drinking water, which would be conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The study will be a nationwide assessment of the effects PFCs are having on citizens near military bases, including the children and adults exposed to drinking water contaminated by PFCs at the former Pease Air Force Base.

The House passed its Defense Authorization Act in July, which means the Senate and House will now conference to negotiate a final version of the bill, which will then go to President Trump’s desk.

The city of Portsmouth closed the Haven well at Pease International Tradeport in May 2014 after the Air Force found levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, at levels 12.5 times higher than what was then the Environmental Protection Agency’s provisional health advisory. The EPA has since dramatically lowered its permanent health advisory for both PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which they’ve classified as “contaminants of emerging concern,” because of their suspected health effects.

The ATSDR has said some studies have determined PFC exposure can increase a person’s likelihood to get cancer, harm the development of a fetus, cause problems with a child’s development, increase cholesterol levels and weaken the immune system.

Shaheen, D-N.H., announced she was including the amendment in the Defense Authorization Act after the Air Force said it would not pay for a health study, even though the Haven well was contaminated by firefighting foam at the former base.

“The health implications of these chemicals is deeply concerning to New Hampshire families and they need to be able to trust that their drinking water is safe. Going forward, I’ll work to ensure that this national study pays particular attention to the health impacts on Seacoast residents,” Shaheen said in late June.