People near Ohio River have high levels of toxins in blood

Residents living near the Ohio River had higher levels of chemical toxins in their blood, and the exposure source was likely from drinking water contaminated by industrial discharges in the river.

New research from the University of Cincinnati found residents of the mid-Ohio River Valley — spanning from Evansville, Ind. to Huntington, West Virginia —had higher than normal levels of perfluorooctanoic acid based on blood samples taken over a 22-yea span.

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The study looked at perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) levels and substance levels in the blood samples taken from resident between 1991 to 2013. The researchers were trying to determined whether the sources of exposure could be from the Ohio River and Ohio River Aquifer.

“These Mid-Ohio River Valley residents appear to have had concentrations of PFOA in their bloodstream at higher than average U.S. levels,” said Susan Pinney, , professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the UC College of Medicine, and senior author of the study.

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Ohio River PFOA concentrations downstream were elevated, suggesting Mid-Ohio River Valley residents were exposed through drinking water, primarily contaminated by industrial discharges as far as 413 miles upstream, according to the researchers.

Pinney points out that the primary concern with chemical exposure is that they take a very long time to leave the human body, and studies indicate that exposure to these types of chemicals over certain levels may result in adverse health effects like developmental effects, liver and tissue damage and immune and thyroid issues.

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“Because the elimination time could be several years, it is hard to determine what impact these environmental exposures may have on our health and children’s health,” Pinney said. “These data from the 1990s demonstrate that that the contaminants have been in our water a long time, at unchecked levels, before anyone was paying attention to it.”

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