Stuart Sachs: ““I want the DOH to really ramp up their effort …”
NEWBURGH – Residents of Newburgh, who signed up and were tested for PFOS blood screening, have waited anxiously for results from the state Department of Health since the first phase was initiated in November of 2016.
Wednesday evening, health department official announced the first blood test result data, consisting of 370 individual tests. In total, 740 individuals have been tested and 3,000 have requested testing.
Cross- reference study materials, provided at the public session showed data in the Newburgh test group thus far having a median PFOS blood contamination level about three times the national contamination median for corresponding groups. Tested Newburgh males have a median contaminant level of 20.9 micrograms/liter to the national male median being 6.4 micrograms/liter. Tested Newburgh females have a median contamination level of 18.1 micrograms/liter compared to the national female median of 4 micrograms/liter. The PFOA contamination shown between Newburgh test subjects and the corresponding national medians of both men and women was approximately 1.5 times the contamination level in both Newburgh populations compared median contamination levels.
The national median statistics are from 2013-2014. Newburgh residents
are concerned, and many dissatisfied, with the results as many feel they
are just arbitrary numbers, not indicative of possible health repercussions.
“While we understand that people are concerned, it’s important to
note that blood levels will not determine future health. The levels only
measure exposure to the chemical and should be discussed with your doctor,
who has your health history, so that information can be considered in
your future healthcare decisions,” said Brad Hutton, Department of
Health deputy commissioner for Public Health.
Courtney Allen, a lifetime Newburgh resident, said she was not satisfied with the response provided by the health department and felt they were, “skating around the questions” being proposed by the community.
“The one answer I kept getting, well everyone kept getting, was, ‘Oh, go to your doctor. Go to your doctor. Go to your doctor’,” said Allen. “To me, if you can’t answer my questions about anything going on with my health, or that are related to the water, how is a doctor supposed to answer any of these questions? It’s ridiculous. It’s like, if you can’t answer any of the questions and you guys are actually doing the research, my doctor isn’t doing any research behind it; so, what do you want my doctor to look into? Give me a list of things that maybe my doctor should be looking into. Do something; but, nothing is being provided at this point.”
Allen was one of many dissatisfied residents who spoke; however, not all were let down for the same reasons.
Stuart Sachs, another Newburgh resident, said his issue is with the populations of these studies being too small and being conducted over too short a time.
“I want the DOH to really ramp up their effort to get a much, much bigger data set; so, not twice, not 10 times, but fifty times what they’ve done,” Sachs said. “I think ten to fifteen thousand would be a really good start, and they’re going to need to test all of these people for ten to fifteen years, every single year, till they get a reasonable scientific study.”
The Department has launched an enhanced blood testing program to expand
availability of free blood testing at multiple locations in the City of
Newburgh. All interested participants who were waiting for testing have
been contacted about the new program and the Department encourages others
to call and sign up for testing. Testing will be available by appointment
at St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, Quest Diagnostics, and LabCorp to give
residents greater scheduling flexibility. Residents who wish to participate
can do so by calling 1-800-801-8092.
“I think that, in our materials, we’re saying that the test orders people are receiving are good through June of this year. In other words, we don’t want people to just set it aside and think that this opportunity will be here forever. We need people to, if they want to get tested, let us know so that we can be sure that this gets done,” said Elizabeth Lewis-Michl, the state director of Environmental Health Assessment Division- Center for Environmental Health.