What's In Your Bloodstream?


A two-year-old Minnesota biomonitoring program has now confirmed that residents of suburbs east of the Twin Cities have perfluorochemicals (PFCs) in their blood, although government agencies stress that the levels are only slightly higher than those in the general population. Several landfill sites where 3M formerly dumped CFC wastes leaked the chemicals into groundwater including some drinking water wells. Meanwhile, a federal agency is proposing to study chemicals in urine and blood of Great Lakes residents to determine whether a massive proposed federal cleanup is delivering results.

The Minnesota Department of Health says 3M workers exposed to PFCs during manufacturing show no apparent impact on their health. Studies on animals have shown effects on the liver, thyroid, and pancreas.

But the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, a nonprofit organization, argues that the levels found in the study could impair the fertility of both women and men.  Samuel Yamin, a public health scientist for MCEA, disagreed with the state’s claim that the PFC levels are slightly higher than the national average. “I would characterize it differently,” said Yamin. “Significantly higher than the national average.”

The PFC study is the program’s second. A study released earlier this year found no apparent correlation between arsenic levels in the soil of a south Minneapolis neighborhood and urinary arsenic levels in children. The Minnesota program has two more cooperative bio-monitoring projects underway:  one to assess mercury levels in residents near Lake Superior by measuring the level of mercury in newborn dried blood spots and another that will measure pregnant women’s exposure to a environmental phenols, which are found in certain plastics, cosmetics and toiletries.

Minnesota is also developing an environmental health tracking program attempting to link environmental exposures and hazards to statistics on health outcomes.

Photo credit: National Institutes of Health.

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