Study reveals Cape Fear Area residents have higher PFAS levels in blood than national average

Cape Fear River
Cape Fear River (Photo: WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Cape Fear River Watch hosted a meeting on Wednesday night to share the results of a study monitoring PFAS levels in people’s blood.

According to the GenX Exposure Study happening at NC State University, people living in the Lower Cape Fear Area have higher levels of PFAS in their blood than the national average. Over 20% of people living in the Wilmington area had the highest likelihood of adverse health effects related to PFAS exposure.

“That’s information that people can take to their healthcare providers to get good information and good health follow-up about health outcomes that may be related to PFAS exposure,” NC State Professor and Principal Investigator for the GenX Study Dr. Jane Hoppin said.

Among other health issues, Dr. Hoppin says people with high exposure levels can have a higher risk of high cholesterol, testicular cancer, breast cancer, and thyroid issues. Even if you aren’t getting your PFAS levels tested, she says it’s not a bad idea to take note of the health advisories.

“You probably can have a conversation and you should have a conversation with your clinician about getting medical monitoring for some of these other very common health outcomes,” Dr. Hoppin said.

The study also found that, over time, PFAS levels have decreased in people’s blood. That is compared to data first analyzed in 2017-2018 to the latest study from 2020-2021. Two PFAS chemicals, Nafion byproduct 2 and PFO5DoA, were detected in most people in the lower Cape Fear River Basin in 2020 and 2021. Those concentrations decreased in the lower Cape Fear River Basin between 2020 and 2021.

Even though many people in the Cape Fear River Basin were exposed to GenX, it was not found in the blood samples because it does not last long in the blood. However, the scientists involved in the study explained that this does not mean people did not experience health impacts from the chemical.

As the research continues, Cape Fear River Watch Executive Director Dana Sargent says advocates should continue to call on the NC Department of Environmental Quality to do more and stop the expansion of the Chemours plant to prevent the creation of more PFAS chemicals.

“It is all over the world and it is not going anywhere. There are uses that are not essential. We need to stop this manufacturing,” Sargent said.

The study is now transitioning from exposure to health effects so more can be learned about the impacts of PFAS.

For more information about the study, visit here.

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