Environmental News

Contaminated Tap Water Possibly Linked To Cancer In Hoosick Falls, NY


Earlier this year the water crisis in Flint, Michigan gained national media attention for problems with lead contamination in the water supply. Hoosick Falls, NY is now another community in the United States impacted by water pollution. In December 2015, federal officials told residents in Hoosick Falls, NY to stop drinking and cooking with tap water.

The New York Times reported on January 27 that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in an effort to manage industrial chemicals in Hoosick Falls’ water supply, instructed state agencies to use Superfund money and water filtration systems to help resolve the issue.

The industrial chemical linked to the contamination of the local water supply is perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. PFOA is a man-made substance that has commercial applications in cleaning products, cookware and firefighting substances. Citizens of Hoosick Falls have raised concerned over water contamination for a long time due to an outbreak of cancer in the community. The New York Times reported that there have been studies linking the chemical contaminant PFOA and cancer, but that the EPA has stated that there is not sufficient evidence to label it a carcinogen.

According to a United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fact sheet, PFOA is an emerging contaminant that poses a threat to human health and the environment. PFOAs do not biodegrade. The chemical contaminant bioaccumulates in biological tissues such as the kidneys and liver.

The state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker was quoted by The New York Times as having said that his department will study data for a period of over 20-years to decipher if there is a link between PFOAs and the cancer outbreak in Hoosick Falls. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant has been linked to the contamination as it is located on the Hoosick River and within close proximity to municipal wells.

The plastics plant has been designated as a Superfund site making it liable for the cost and clean up of PFOAs in Hoosick Falls.

CNN reported that Saint-Gobain had informed the EPA in December 2014 of high levels of PFOA in their plastics plants and that the company had ceased the use of materials containing the contaminant that same month. The plastics plant has been designated as a Superfund site making it liable for the cost and clean up of PFOAs in Hoosick Falls.

PFOAs are water soluble meaning that they can travel through soil to ground water easily and at long distances. PFOAs enter the body through the consumption of contaminated food and water. This industrial chemical is considered to be widespread in the general human population and in wildlife.

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