UCI awarded $1 million to participate in multi-site health study of contaminated drinking water

The University of California, Irvine was awarded $1 million by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to participate in the first year of a major multi-site health study to investigate the relationship between drinking water contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and health outcomes.

Under the agreement, UCI researchers will conduct an investigation in Orange, Anaheim, Yorba Linda, and other surrounding communities, where PFAS have been detected in public water supplies.

PFAS chemicals are contaminants that have been shown in some studies to adversely affect growth, learning and behavior in infants and children, lower a woman's chance of getting pregnant, interfere with the body's natural hormones, increase cholesterol levels, affect the immune system and increase the risk of developing some cancers.

There is much that is unknown about the health effects of exposures to these chemicals. The multi-site study will advance the scientific evidence on the human health effects of PFAS and provide some answers to communities exposed to the contaminated drinking water."

Patrick Breysse, PHD, CIH, director of ATSDR and CDC's National Center for Environmental Health

This is the first major study to look at exposure to multiple PFAS at sites across the nation. The information learned from the multi-site study will help all communities in the U.S. with PFAS drinking water exposures by allowing communities and governmental agencies to make better decisions about how to protect public health.

"We're excited to be part of the national effort addressing these emerging environmental contaminants," said Scott Bartell, PhD, professor in UCI's Program in Public Health and principal investigator for the study. "Our local communities deserve to know to what extent they have been exposed to these toxic chemicals, and whether or not they have increased health risks as a result of those exposures."

Working with local communities, water managers and a team of UCI investigators from the Program in Public Health, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, Bartell and co-principal investigator Russell Detwiler, PhD, will perform the UCI study over the next five years. The UCI study will recruit at least 300 children aged four to 17 years and 1,000 adults aged ≥18 years who were exposed to PFAS-contaminated drinking water.

This study was authorized by the National Defense Authorization Acts of 2018 and 2019 to provide information to communities about the health effects of PFAS exposure.

PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1950s. They have been used in non-stick cookware; water-repellent clothing; stain-resistant fabrics and carpets; some cosmetics; some firefighting foams; and products that resist grease, water, and oil. Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposure to PFAS.

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