August 16, 2016

Senator Gillibrand Urges CDC To Partner With New York State Department Of Health To Offer Blood Testing For PFOS To Newburgh Residents

Gillibrand: Residents of Newburgh deserve to know the extent of their exposure to PFOS

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control AND PREVENTION urging the agency to partner with the New York State Department of Health to offer blood testing for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to residents of Newburgh, NY.

“Residents of Newburgh should be able to drink their water without having to worry about whether it is going to harm them, and they have a right to know the extent of how this water crisis has already affected them,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We need to use every tool and resource the government has, from testing to funding to scientific expertise, to fully investigate the sources of this contamination and prevent it from happening again. I urge the National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to work with their partners at the New York State Department of Health to offer blood testing to residents of Newburgh, so that they can finally begin to have clarity about the extent of this problem.”

In May 2016, residents of the City of Newburgh learned that the City’s drinking water supply was contaminated with the man-made chemical PFOS at concentrations above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently updated lifetime drinking water health advisory level. On May 4, 2016, Senator Gillibrand was joined by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney in calling on the EPA to immediately provide testing and planning assistance to the City of Newburgh to create a plan to remediate the contamination.

The full text of the letter to CDC is included below:

August 16, 2016

Dr. Patrick Breysse

Director

National Center for Environmental Health | Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

4770 Buford Highway NE

Atlanta, Georgia 30341

Dear Dr. Breysse, 

Thank you for your commitment to addressing the public health concerns related to the emerging problem of perfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination in New York State and across the country. I write today to urge the National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (NCEH/ATSDR) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to work together with the New York State Department of Health to respond to the health-related concerns of the residents of the City of Newburgh, New York regarding the perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) contamination in the City of Newburgh’s public drinking water supply. Specifically, I urge NCEH/ATSDR to provide assistance to the New York State Department of Health in offering blood testing to the residents of the City of Newburgh who have been exposed to PFOS and who want to know the level of PFOS in their blood.

Located in Orange County, New York, the City of Newburgh is home to more than 28,000 people. In May 2016, residents of the City of Newburgh learned that the City’s drinking water supply was contaminated with the man-made chemical PFOS at concentrations above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s recently-updated lifetime drinking water health advisory level. The City has since switched to a temporary water source that has shown no sign of PFOS contamination as municipal, state, and federal partners work to locate and remediate the PFOS contamination in the City’s main drinking water supply. At the same time, residents are understandably concerned about their historical exposure to elevated levels of PFOS and the possible health effects of this exposure.

As you know, studies indicate that exposure to PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, liver damage, low birth weight, and other serious health effects. However, these health effects are not well understood, and more research is needed to clarify and expand upon current research findings. In previous correspondence, I have asked NCEH/ATSDR and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to prioritize this research, and I look forward to working with NCEH/ATSDR and NIEHS to determine what resources are needed to conduct this research. While we do not yet know what specific level of PFOS in a person's blood might result in adverse health effects, blood test results can provide the following benefits: help shed light on the extent of residents’ exposure to PFOS; enable residents to compare their PFOS blood levels to those in other communities where residents have been exposed to elevated levels of PFOS and other PFAS; and be added to residents’ medical files to help inform their discussions with medical providers.

In the interest of equipping residents with critical information about their exposure to PFOS, I urge NCEH/ATSDR to partner with the New York State Department of Health to offer blood testing to the residents of the City of Newburgh to determine the level of PFOS in residents’ blood and to provide the Newburgh community with the most updated information about the health effects of PFOS exposure.

Sincerely,

Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator