Moms Vow to Push Air Force for Health Study

A view of the main gate at Pease Air Force Base New, Hampshire on October 18, 1987. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Casey)
A view of the main gate at Pease Air Force Base New, Hampshire on October 18, 1987. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Casey)

PORTSMOUTH -- Three Seacoast mothers say they will keep fighting for a health study of children and adults exposed to PFCs at Pease International Tradeport, even though the Air Force says it won't pay for it.

"We're not taking no for an answer, not even close," Portsmouth resident Andrea Amico said about their push for a study for people exposed to PFCs through contaminated city water. "We need to collaborate and we need to ask for help from our congressional delegation."

Amico, who is a member of the Pease Community Assistance Panel and a Testing for Pease co-founder, learned last week that the Air Force would not pay for a health study, even though they paid for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to conduct a feasibility assessment to determine what kind of health studies could be done.

"It was incredibly frustrating to hear the DOD (Department of Defense) say they would not pay for our health study," Amico said. "If they were not going to fund the process, they should have made it clear to us a year ago."

The Air Force's decision is particularly frustrating, Amico said, because "the Air Force is the responsible party for the contamination."

"They have taken responsibility to remediate the water, they also have to help the community with its health concerns," Amico said. "They can't pick and choose what they want to make right."

Air Force and health officials believe the city-owned Haven Well at the Pease International Tradeport was contaminated by the use of firefighting foam at the former Air Force base.

"We clearly need help from our elected officials to put the appropriate pressure on DOD to fund the health study," she added.

Michelle Dalton of Dover, a co-founder of Testing for Pease and CAP member, called the Air Force's decision "very disappointing."

"It was disheartening, but I think it gave us more fuel for our fire because we're not going to take no for an answer," Dalton said. "At the same time, it wasn't that surprising, we always knew we were going to have to push and fight to get funding."

Dalton and her young son were exposed to PFCs and like many she worries about the long-term health impacts to their exposure.

"I want to have my son and myself monitored over time because I worry about what can happen in the future," Dalton said. "I want to have a health study that's proactive, not reactive."

Despite the Air Force's decision, Dalton stressed that CAP members are "not losing hope" and pledged they will continue to fight for the health study.

Alayna Davis of Dover, who is also a CAP member and Testing for Pease co-founder, said hearing the news last week was "extremely frustrating."

"They've been at the meetings since the beginning. They've known all along that the community was concerned about the health effects," Davis said.

Davis said Monday she shares the community's concerns about long-term health effects.

"My son was exposed so early on. I'm concerned something is not going to show up now, but maybe it will as a teenager or adult," she said. "One of the most serious endpoints is cancer."

The city of Portsmouth closed the Haven well at Pease International Tradeport in May 2014 after the Air Force found levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, at 12.5 times higher than what was then the EPA's provisional health advisory.

The ATSDR has said some health studies on people exposed to PFCs show they can harm a developing fetus or child, decrease fertility, interfere with the body's natural hormones, increase cholesterol, hurt the immune system and even increase cancer risk.

Davis' son started attending a day care at Pease when he was just 12 weeks old and she worked at Pease.

Like Amico and Dalton, Davis believes the CAP should reach out to the state's congressional delegation for help in finding the money for a health study.

"We don't obviously have a concrete plan in place, but we're discussing it," Davis said. "We're definitely not giving up on the process for the community. We want biomonitoring and we want the health studies done."

Amico believes a Pease-only health study could prove to be "a good starting point before a national study."

"I love that concept because Pease has been a leader on the PFC issue," Amico said. "A lot of what we've done here is paving the path for other communities."

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