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Study next step in water contamination cleanup

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A chemical commonly found on military installations could wage a war with your health. A New Hampshire senator hopes the country can learn more about the enemy at home.

The water at hundreds of military outposts across the country is contaminated, exposing men, women, and children to health impacts. Known associated health issues range from cancer to high cholesterol, many experts presume more are unknown.

The contaminants are from a family of chemicals known as PFAS found in foam used for firefighting. Public health officials shutdown a well associated with Pease Internationl Tradeport - a former air base -- after testing found abnormally high levels of PFAS in the water, and in those who drank it.

"I'm particularly worried about my children because they were exposed at really young ages in their life," said Portsmouth, NH resident Andrea Amico, "they both started daycare at 12 weeks old and we had no idea the water was contaminated."

Amico's husband worked at the Tradeport and her kids still go to day-care there. She said her family does not show health impacts now, but she worries that will change with time. "Not just the next few years, but the course of their life, nd how this may have impacted them."

Air Force spokespeople said they don't have the authorization to study the chemicals. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen wants the Department of Defense to fork over seven million dollars to the Toxic Substances and Disease registry to get one done.

"We need to get this data, we need to get a study," Shaheen said, "we need to be able to provide some information to families that are very concerned about their future."

Shaheen points out that Amico's loved ones are just three of 1,500 people in the Portsmouth-area with elevated PFAS levels in their blood.

The area is also home to a suspected cancer cluster. "We're not sure how the water has affected those instances of cancer," said Shaheen, "but families are very worried and we need to have some definitive information for families about what the real impact is, so that we can figure out how to address it."

New data could change how the chemical is regulated. That would impact areas like Bennington, VT and Hoosick Falls N.Y. Private and public drinking water became tainted with PFOA -- a type of PFAs there. Industrial plants run by the Saint Gobain plastic company are suspected of being the source.

A select-group of lawmakers from the House and Senate will decide soon whether the requirement to study the chemicals remains in the Department of Defense's budget. Even if it does, families are unlikely to get answers soon. The results won't be due for five years.