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CU studying impact of firefighting foam on drinking water in Security, Fountain

FOUNTAIN, Colorado - The foam often used by firefighters to douse flames ended up contaminating drinking water for residents in Fountain and Security-Widefield, and now scientists want to know its effects on residents.

A two-year grant has been secured for the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Colorado School of Mines to see the health impacts of those film-forming foams used in firefighting and training.

The researchers will be measuring biological markers of exposure and health indicators in about 200 people who consumed contaminated water, according to a news release issued Thursday.

It stems from a nine-month study conducted by the U.S. Air Force that says firefighting foam used at Peterson Air Force Base contaminated the groundwater and soil with poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). The levels found in the groundwater and soil were more than 1,000 times the health advisory limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency for similar chemicals.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is funding the study to understand the biological impacts of those PFASs. The organization says little information is known about the effects of PFASs on humans in areas with water contaminated by film-forming foams.

“This research will contribute to our understanding of the factors driving this unique exposure and how it may affect long-term health,” said Dr. John Adgate, chair of ColoradoSPH’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and principal investigator of the study. 

Adgate added that exposure to PFASs has been significantly reduced because of work by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and local water utilities. Carbon filtration systems and alternative water supplies were implemented in early 2016 after the contamination was discovered.

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