PFAS Exposure Assessments in Communities near Current and Former Military Installations

CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) announced the communities identified for the upcoming exposure assessments that will examine human exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). As part of the National Defense Authorization Act, CDC/ATSDR was asked to conduct exposure assessments in communities near current or former military installations.

These exposure assessments build upon the CDC/ATSDR-funded pilots conducted in partnership with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the New York State Department of Health. Building upon the groundbreaking work in Pennsylvania and New York, CDC/ATSDR will conduct exposure assessments in eight additional communities to create a profile of PFAS exposure at ten sites across the nation. These ten sites are:

  1. Bucks and Montgomery Counties, PA near Horsham Air Guard Station and former Naval Air Warfare Center*
  2. Berkeley County, WV near Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base
  3. El Paso County, CO near Peterson Air Force Base
  4. Fairbanks North Star Borough, AK near Eielson Air Force Base
  5. Hampden County, MA near Barnes Air National Guard Base
  6. Lubbock County, TX near Reese Technology Center
  7. New Castle County, DE near New Castle Air National Guard Base
  8. Orange County, NY near Stewart Air National Guard Base
  9. Spokane County, WA near Fairchild Air Force Base
  10. Westhampton, NY near Gabreski Air National Guard Base*

*Pilot site

An exposure assessment is a way to evaluate whether and how people in a community might have been exposed to a substance in their environment. An assessment will identify where exposure is coming from, how much people are exposed to, and how long people have been exposed.  An exposure assessment is different than a health study; it does not look at what types of health problems the exposure might cause.

CDC/ATSDR used a rigorous multi-step approach to identify communities that reflect the legislative requirements and scientific needs of the project. We developed criteria to identify sites for the exposure assessments, starting by identifying communities that were known to have PFAS in their drinking water. CDC/ATSDR then considered other factors, such as what kind of water supply the community had and how much PFAS was in the water. In addition, we looked at how long the exposure may have lasted, and how many people might have been exposed in the community.

CDC/ATSDR will stagger the exposure assessments. We anticipate the first one will begin in 2019 and the others will follow through 2020. Individuals participating in the exposure assessment will receive their test results along with a comparison to levels in the U.S. and in the community as soon as they are available. The results of these exposure assessments will help individual participants and their communities better understand their exposure to PFAS.

The benefits of the exposure assessments will extend beyond the communities identified, as the lessons learned can also be applied to communities facing similar PFAS drinking water exposures. They will also produce information that can be used by public health professionals across the nation to help communities impacted by PFAS.  Additionally, the exposure assessments will generate information about the pathways of exposure in the community, which can inform future studies evaluating the impact of PFAS exposure on human health, such as CDC/ATSDR’s upcoming multi-site health study.

For more information, please visit CDC/ATSDR’s website. If you have further questions, please contact CDC/ATSDR at NCEH_ATSDR_policy@cdc.gov.

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