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Health study planned after firefighting foam tainted water

December 21, 2017

This Nov. 2, 2016, photo shows a mock-up of an airplane at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., which emergency crews use to practice firefighting. The Air Force has said chemicals from firefighting foam used at the base have contaminated drinking water for nearby residents. The University of Colorado and Colorado School of Mines announced on Dec. 21, 2017, they will study the health impacts of the contamination on residents. (AP Photo/Dan Elliott)

DENVER (AP) — Researchers said Thursday they will study contamination levels in the blood of about 200 Colorado residents whose drinking water was tainted by firefighting foam from an Air Force base.

The University of Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines said the two-year study aims to determine how much of the chemicals residents absorbed, how quickly their bodies are shedding the contaminants and what the current levels are in the water.

The chemicals are called perfluorinated compounds or PFCs. They have been linked to prostate, kidney and testicular cancer, along with other illnesses.

Firefighting foam containing PFCs has been used at military installations nationwide. PFCs have also been used in non-stick cookware coatings and other applications.

The Air Force announced in 2016 it would switch to some another type of foam believed to be safer.

PFCs were found in well water in three utility systems serving about 69,000 people in the city of Fountain and an unincorporated community called Security-Widefield south of Colorado Springs. Levels exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended limits.

The utilities have switched to other water sources.

The Air Force determined the chemicals came from firefighting foam used at nearby Peterson Air Force Base.

The new study is designed to look at large-scale impacts of the chemicals, but individual subjects will at least learn what their contamination levels are and can talk to their health care providers about it, said John Adgate, the principal investigator.

“There’s keen interest in that,” said Adgate, who heads the Environmental and Occupational Health Department at the Colorado School of Public Health, part of the University of Colorado.

Although the study is planned for just two years, with sufficient funding it could be turned into longer-term project, he said.

“There are no strong studies on the long-term health effects of these compounds,” Adgate said.

The Colorado study is funded by an initial grant of about $247,000 from the National Institutes of Health.

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Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP. His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/dan%20elliott.

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