Expanding blood tests for PFAS subject of new study at Maine General

Maine General Medical Center collaborating with Maine CDC on quantifying exposore to perfluoroalkyl substances
Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 3:22 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Maine (WABI) - The Environmental Protection Agency is taking action to limit pollution caused by PFAS.

The plan, announced Monday, would restrict the so-called forever chemicals from being released into the environment, accelerate cleanup of PFAS-contaminated sites and increase investments in research.

Governor Janet Mills giving her approval to the action and noting it follows a call from Governor Millsfor the federal government to assist Maine in its efforts to address PFAS contamination.

“PFAS contamination is a devastating problem in Maine, hurting peoples’ lives and livelihoods,” says Governor Mills in a statement. “That’s why we have taken aggressive action to identify and mitigate the impacts of PFAS across the state,. While Maine is leading on PFAS discovery and response, having the resources and support inherent in Federal leadership will be a significant benefit. I applaud the EPA for its commitment to addressing PFAS.”

Maine General Medical Cener is currently collaborating with the Maine CDC to develop a more thorough blood test for those exposed to high levels of PFAS.

Joy Hollowell tells us more about the potentially ground breaking research.


“The test that we’re using at Maine General has limitations when we’re looking at a population this high of PFAS exposure,” says Dr. Rachel Criswell, a researcher at Maine General Medical Center., “We’re looking to better quantify the exposure.”

30 test subjects from Fairfield, Benton and part of Unity Township are participating in the study at the medical center. All of them have levels of PFAS in their water significantly higher than the federal safety limit.

“One of the coolest things about this study and one of the reasons I’m excited to be a part of it is that it came out of primary care providers and patients saying- Hey you need this information.”

Dr. Criswell is among them. As a family medical doctor in the Fairfield area, this study hits close to home for many of her patients.

“While we have very good predictor models for the levels that should be in people’s blood based on their water levels, when you get to concentrations this high, these models tend to break apart,” she explains.

Lawrence and Penny Higgins are participating in the study. The fairfield couple says they’ve been exposed to toxic water for nearly 30 years.

“Nobody can actually tell us what is going to happen to use,” says Penny Higgins. “It’s the not knowing that bothers you.”

“We’ve asked our doctors, we’ve asked our veterinarians what to watch out for and none of them really know,” adds her husband, Lawrence.

According to Criswell, the National Academy of Science and Medicine is currently evaluating whether the recommendation not to test for PFAS and medically monitor exposure needs to change.

“There’s evidence from really high, quality studies looking at people with high exposures that show that there are some lab tests that we should be monitoring in these individuals,” she explains.

Enrollment for the Maine study just finished up. A CDC lab will now test the blood samples.

“These are just very new chemicals in the scheme of things and we’re hoping that recommendation will be out for clinicians in the sprIng of next year,” says Criswell.


For more information on PFAS, log onto https://www.maine.gov/dep/spills/topics/pfas/


Copyright 2021 WABI. All rights reserved.