Public Health Assessment of and Response to Perfluorooctanoic Acid in Drinking Water, Bennington, Vermont

By Lauren Prinzing, Brianna Moore, David Grass, Sarah Vose, Jenna Voigt, Harry Chen, and Lori Cragin
J of Environ. H.
March 23, 2020

A growing body of research links exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and adverse health outcomes. PFOA was discovered in private drinking water wells in Bennington, Vermont, in 2016, prompting an investigation by the Vermont Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation. The objectives of the investigation were to assess potential exposure pathways in Bennington, to inform participants of their serum PFOA level, and to compare serum levels with U.S. background levels. Serum PFOA concentrations were strongly correlated with PFOA concentrations in well water (rs = .65, p < .01) and cumulative exposure to PFOA in residential drinking water (rs = .65; p < .01). Response to large-scale private drinking water contamination incidents in real time provides unique challenges. In Vermont, open communication with the public, proactively addressing community concerns, and the presence of an Environmental Contingency Fund allowed some of those challenges to be overcome. Our findings provide insights for future public health responses to PFOA and other perfluoroalkyl substance contamination.