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Defense bill includes funds for PFC study

PORTSMOUTH -- U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. announced Wednesday afternoon that the final Senate- and House-negotiated defense authorization bill includes her bipartisan amendment to pay for the first-ever study on the health effects of PFC exposure in drinking water.

The study will look to give answers to thousands of people exposed to PFCs at the former Pease Air Force Base here - including at two day care centers - about what the health impacts are from the chemicals.

“I’ve spoken with Granite State families and communities who have been fighting tirelessly for answers about the risks from exposure to perfluorinated chemicals in their drinking water. They deserve answers, and I’m relieved that my bipartisan amendment in the final defense bill will help deliver them,” Shaheen said Wednesday. “We must ensure that we can provide families with definitive information on the impact of drinking water on their health. Going forward, I’ll work to ensure that this national study pays particular attention to the health impacts on Seacoast residents so we can give peace of mind to New Hampshire families who have been affected by these contaminants.”

U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., led efforts in the House of Representatives to include the health study in the defense bill.

“Community members who live near contaminated sites deserve answers about how they and their children may be affected by PFCs, and guidance on what steps they can and should take to protect their health,” Shea-Porter said Wednesday.

Shaheen’s amendment directs the Department of Defense to pay for the first-ever nationwide study on the human health effects of PFC exposure from drinking water.

Portsmouth closed its Haven well at Pease International Tradeport in May 2014 after the Air Force found levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, 12.5 times higher than what was then the EPA’s provisional health advisory. The EPA classifies PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, as “contaminants of emerging concern” because of their potential harm to humans.

Shaheen and U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., recently said in a letter to the EPA that PFOA and PFOS “have been associated with birth defects, various forms of cancer and immune system dysfunction.”

Portsmouth mother and environmental activist Andrea Amico called the news about the national health study “a crucial next step for the folks at Pease, the folks in New Hampshire and people all across the nation.”

“The news that it’s in the final process is extremely positive and much needed for thousands if not millions,” Amico said Wednesday.

Amico, whose children were exposed to PFCs at Pease, said it’s “so important that this study is carried out properly and efficiently, because as a parent I never stop worrying about the health of my kids because they have high levels of these contaminants in their body. Any information we can give people to help them better understand the health impacts is so important.”

Shaheen said the final version of the defense bill will be voted on by both the House and Senate soon.

Amico credited the work of the delegation in bringing the amendment to fruition. “This wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for them,” she said. “They have played an extremely important part in this process.”

She added that the health study will be a “unique opportunity to really help impacted community members better understand health impacts that they may experience or their children may experience.”

“Not only people in New Hampshire, but really the rest of the country and the entire world will benefit from this,” Amico said. “It’s a really big deal.”

Shaheen worked to get the bi-partisan amendment included in the defense bill after the Air Force announced earlier this year that it would not fund a health study of water contamination around Haven well at the former Air Force base.