State to study PFC blood levels in Lake Elmo, Oakdale and Cottage Grove

Next week the Minnesota Department of Health will begin a study to see if the levels of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in the blood of Lake Elmo, Oakdale and Cottage Grove residents are continuing to drop after a 2006 public health intervention to clean contaminated groundwater before humans drink it.

Some residents in those communities will receive mailed requests next week seeking participation in the study.

Prior to a 2006 health intervention, some drinking water in the area was contaminated by manufacturing materials.

“The groundwater contamination originated at several disposal sites used by 3M between the 50s to early 70s to dispose of various manufacturing materials from their plant in Cottage Grove,” said Jim Kelly with the Environmental Health Division of the Minnesota Department of Health. “Those materials leached into the groundwater.”

One of the sites affected was the former Washington County dump site in Lake Elmo, he said, noting that it’s mostly the eastern portion of Lake Elmo that was affected.

PFCs — commonly used in manufacturing grease-resistant products from carpets and textiles to fast food packaging — have not been proven to harm humans. Jessica Nelson, a program coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Health, said nearly everyone is exposed to them at some level, but the Minnesota Department of Health has established limits for levels considered safe in drinking water.

“There isn’t scientific agreement yet as to whether they cause illnesses in people,” Nelson said. “But studies in animals have found some health effects.”

In 2006, 3M paid to hook up about 200 Lake Elmo residents to the city’s water supply, Kelly said, as well as provide filtration for Oakdale’s municipal water system. Some Lake Elmo residents received filters for their wells because it was more economical than connecting them to the city’s water.

The planned study will be the third “PFC Biomontering Project” the state has conducted. Similar studies in 2008 and 2010 indicated that PFC blood levels in area residents were higher than average but declined significantly between 2008 and 2010. The new study will check on the same group of long-term east metro residents to see if their PFC blood levels are still going down.

“We expect that we’ll find continued decrease in the levels of these chemicals in the blood of people paticipating in this study,” Kelly said.

In addition, this study will randomly select newer residents of Oakdale to see if they have elevated PFC levels compared to the general U.S. population and if PFC levels are linked to the length of residence in Oakdale.

Residents selected for the study will receive a letter requesting participation, including having blood drawn at HealthEast Oakdale.

Nelson said participation by those contacted for the study is key to obtaining accurate results.

“We hope that the community members we contact in the next few weeks will read our materials and consider being part of the project,” she said.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]