Residents discuss HHS blood tests

PFOAs' presence in lab work raise health concerns for locals

Blood testing that has been done on southern New Hampshire residents in three different studies has confirmed exposure from PFAS from Saint-Gobain water contamination.

According to results from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, which conducted the tests, residents who consume Merrimack Village District water, water from private wells and individuals from the Pease tradeport study had higher levels of PFOA exposure than the general U.S. population, but lower levels than other exposed communities, including Bennington, Vermont, and Hoosick Falls, New York, where blood tests on residents living near Saint-Gobain facilities also were conducted.

HHS blood tests on Pease tradeport residents were conducted in 2015, followed by tests done on MVD and private well residents in 2016 and 2017.

The Telegraph interviewed residents of Merrimack and Bedford about their blood-testing experiences.

Kristen Odell, a physician in Bedford, was tested and said her PFOA level was high “and puts us in the five percent range.”

She fears for the health of herself and her 10-year-old son.

“Before the blood test, we were drinking filtered city water from the Merrimack Reserve, but since Saint-Gobain, we get water delivery and put it through a filter,” she said.

When asked why she needs to filter bottled water, she said, “You can get contaminants from the plastic from the bottles when they’re sitting in the sun.”

Priscilla Sepessy, from Merrimack, said, “When they first ran the blood tests, I had a test done and the PFOA results were higher than normal, which surprised me. I had well water and live four-tenths of a mile from the Saint-Gobain plant, so they hooked me up to town water at the end of last summer.”

Nancy Murphy, a nurse in Merrimack, said she lives two miles from the Saint-Gobain plant and does not qualify for blood testing. She drinks town water but wasn’t selected in the group of residents for the HHS MVD survey.

“I have an adopted daughter with a thyroid issue, an adopted son with high cholesterol and a biological daughter with confusing medical issues,” she said. “It makes me wonder about the potential impact of exposure to chemicals in our water. I don’t know what harm I’ve done to my children to get them to drink water unknowingly. I may be complicit in causing them harm. It’s an unfortunate place to be with no access to blood testing.”

Wendy Thomas, a Merrimack resident who lives outside the designated contaminant area and didn’t qualify for blood tests, said her well was tested with a Maximum Contaminant Level of 45 parts per trillion.

“I have five adult children living at home with chronic lyme disease and autoimmune issues. I found a holistic doctor who said they have to drink water. I’ve been pushing water for years, but I’ve been feeding them poison. Who knows what the implications are? We don’t drink MVD water. I’m leery about it because it’s not filtered. We put the whole house on a filtration system, so the water is filtered before it comes into the house. I’m not interested in being hooked up to town water, because they haven’t done anything to fix the problem, and there’s no guarantee of another chemical down the line. It’s fantastic to have clean water in my house, but it’s not fair for others who can’t afford filtration systems. It’s not fair we have to pay money to fix a problem Saint-Gobain caused. Corporations that care more about money than the impact to public health are evil.”

Jake Leon, a HHS spokesman, said the MVD tests were conducted on 217 residents who responded to invitations for a random sample.

“We invited 1,000 residents and wanted to get as much diversity as possible, some who lived closer to Saint-Gobain and some who lived farther away,” he said.

The HHS has provided results for the MVD tests, with the geometric mean for all residents at 3.9 micrograms per liter, compared to 1.9 for the general U.S. population.

Laurene Allen, a Merrimack resident who heads the Citizens for Clean Water group, believes blood tests should be available to more MVD residents.

“There are 27,000 residents within a half-mile radius of the Saint-Gobain plant and a random sampling of 217 is not sufficient,” she said. “Blood testing should be opened up to more residents, it’s very problematic. Some of the residents tested three times the national average, so it’s not a question of whether there are chemicals in our blood, but how much.”

Leon said residents with private wells in areas that surpass the EPA Maximum Contaminant Level of 70 parts per trillion can still be tested. Visit this site for details on blood testing registration: https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/pfcs/blood-testing.htm