News Feature | November 7, 2016

PFOS Continues To Plague New York Residents

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

Blood testing began this month in Newburgh and New Windsor, NY, as residents are thought to have been exposed to perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS.

According to the Times Herald-Record, the state Department of Health (DOH) outlined an outreach strategy to get as many people tested as possible.

Seven dates for blood testing were announced at a third public meeting concerning the crisis in late October.

“This is just the beginning of the process,” said Nathan Graber, director of DOH’s Center for Environmental Health.

In early May, a state of emergency was issued in the city of Newburgh after the New York State Department of Conservation detected PFOS in Silver Stream and Washington Lake.

Even though there were relatively low levels of PFOS detected in the water, the city still wanted to take emergency measures as a precaution.

The U.S. EPA released updated drinking water guidelines for PFOA and PFOS in May as the contaminants began to emerge regularly in regional water supplies.

The agency “issued a lifetime drinking water health advisory of 70 parts per trillion for human exposure to the manmade chemical,” per Albany’s Times Union.

Neither PFOA nor PFOS is made or used in the U.S. for manufacturing anymore, but the chemicals persist in the environment because of the strength of the carbon-fluorine bond.

According to, a study that was published by Environmental Science and Technology Letters found that the combination of toxic chemicals in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) has seeped into public water supplies from California to Rhode Island.

According to the report, “the study suggests at least six million people across the U.S. in 2016 had drinking water that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's lifetime health advisory for certain acids associated with the foams.”

Researchers from UC Berkeley and Harvard University report that these “highly fluorinated chemicals are linked to cancer, obesity, high cholesterol and endocrine problems, among other concerns,” per AccuWeather.

Image credit: "Chevron's Toxic Legacy in Ecuador's Amazon, April  2010" © Rainforest Action Network 2010 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: