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What you need to know for 07/21/2017

Editorial: Full cancer study for Hoosick Falls

Editorial: Full cancer study for Hoosick Falls

Study provides incomplete picture of impact on residents' health
Editorial: Full cancer study for Hoosick Falls
A “No Dumping” sign near water wells in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., Feb. 23, 2016.
Photographer: Nathaniel Brooks/The New York Times
Haven’t residents of Hoosick Falls had their chains yanked enough by the PFOA contamination in their community? 
 
Now it turns out that the state is messing with them again when it comes to a new cancer study related to the contamination.
 
The study was commissioned by the state Health Department and was designed to determine whether residents who drank water contaminated with the chemical were at an increased risk of contracting cancer.
 
The study found no elevated incidences of cancer among village residents.
 
The problem with the way the study was conducted is that it provides an incomplete, and therefore potentially inaccurate, picture of the effects of this chemical on residents.
 
PFOA is a chemical used in the manufacture of non-stick, heat-resistant coating for items like frying pans.
 
It was allegedly leaked into the water supply from a plant in Hoosick Falls operated by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and previously by other companies.
 
Studies have linked exposure to the chemical to an increased risk of cancer and other health problems. But the actual impact it has had on local residents will unlikely be determined by this particular study.
 
For starters, the study only looked at data from the state’s cancer registry of residents living within the village of Hoosick Falls. 
 
It did not consider residents living in the surrounding town of Hoosick Falls, where more than 100 wells were found to be contaminated with PFOA. In limiting the study to the village, critics of the report said, it also excluded about 100 residents living in the town who get their water from the village’s municipal  supply.
 
It didn’t include information on people who’d lived within the contamination area but who had since moved outside the village, including to the town and to other states.
 
And the study also only went back to 1995, about 22 years. Some say the contamination, however, goes back about 40 years, which means an entire generation of citizens who potentially may have been affected isn’t included in the study.
 
In addition to excluding a large potential group of victims, the study also failed to identify the identities of those who conducted the research and those who provided peer review of the conclusions. This inexplicable lack of transparency makes it more difficult for citizens to evaluate the qualifications of those who did the study and to thoroughly critique their work and direct questions to them about it.
 
State officials need to do right by the residents of Hoosick Falls, especially after having dragged their feet for so long in alerting residents to a problem and reacting so slowly to the discovery of contamination. 
Investing in a complete cancer study is the least they can do.
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