Drinking water has been considered safe from PFOA contaminates in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky after both areas installed granular activated carbon filtration systems in their water treatment facilities, explained Pinney. Cincinnati did so in the 1990s while Northern Kentucky signed on in 2012. But other areas in Ohio are likely still affected by PFOA in drinking water, said Pinney.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine asked the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Health to develop an action plan by Dec. 1 to test public and private water systems that are near firefighting training sites and manufacturing facilities — areas that are known sources of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also considered a variant of PFOA.
As part of the action plan, the agencies will also develop a strategy to work with communities and private well owners on appropriate response measures if high levels of PFAS are found, according to the governor’s office.
Earlier this month, Pinney delivered a congressional briefing to the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senators and their staff members on this issue of PFOA. Perhaps 30 million people across the United States drink water from systems with lead and up to 110 million people could be drinking water with PFOAs, she said.
“‘Dark Waters’ reminds us that major pollution incidents such as PFOA in the surface and groundwater in the mid-Ohio Valley has health consequences,” said Pinney. “Researchers at UC and nationally are uncovering those health consequences. Some of those include decreased birth weight, later pubertal maturation in girls and decreased vaccine efficacy. There is some evidence of increased risk of certain cancers with PFOA exposure.”
Pinney said those cancer risks will be reviewed in the near future using biospecimens and data from the Fernald Community Cohort, which contains health information of more than 9,700 people enrolled in an 18-year medical monitoring program with current ongoing follow-up of their health.
“Certainly health professionals in this area need to know about the increased health risks attributable to PFOA,” said Pinney. “Although the water in the greater Cincinnati is just fine, in other areas of Ohio it is untested, and therefore we do not know the current levels of PFAS. We have lost the opportunity to ever know what they were in the past.”
Featured Image at top: A still from the "Dark Waters" trailer reveals a section of the Ohio River, where the movie is set. Image of Susan Pinney taken by Colleen Kelley/ UC Creative Services.