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State seeks volunteers on South Fork for blood test study

The State Department of Health is asking a sampling of year-round Southampton Town residents to take part in a study measuring levels of perfluorinated compounds in their blood as part of a broader survey of potential exposure to the man-made chemicals.

Letters last month were sent randomly to 800 households drinking from public water supplies in Westhampton Beach, Quogue and Quiogue, said Brad Hutton, deputy commissioner in the state Health Department’s Office of Public Health.

The move comes after tests from a monitoring well drilled near a former landfill in East Quogue detected the compounds at more than 150 times a federal health advisory level for drinking water. The state is now testing private wells in the area, but local officials say public water supplies have not been affected.

The compounds can affect the liver, thyroid, immune system and birth weight and people can be exposed by air, water and soil that’s been contaminated by fire-fighting foam, a state health department fact sheet said.

The voluntary study involves a questionnaire and blood test. Residents must have lived in the area for at least two years and the health department hopes to get 150 respondents, Hutton said.

All results and information will be kept confidential and participants will also receive a $50 gift card, according to a letter sent to residents in April by the state Department of Health.

The study is an expansion of one conducted in two upstate communities, Hoosick Falls and Newburgh, where state officials have taken an estimated 6,500 blood samples, Health Department Spokesman Gary Holmes said.

Results, which will help determine the range of exposure in the localized area, will be compared with other samples in the United States but officials cautioned that they would not be able to tell participants how blood levels detected may affect their health in the future.

“Your participation in this study will help advance the research,” the letter said.

Perfluorinated compounds are an emerging concern among environmental scientists and health officials. They are not regulated in drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency but a state Drinking Water Quality Council last year was charged with recommending a safe level for consideration by the state Health Commissioner. A meeting to set that recommendation was postponed in March and has not been rescheduled, Holmes said.

Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach and Suffolk County’s fire training academy in Yaphank were added to the state Superfund list in 2016 and 2017 because of contamination from perfluorinated compounds, though at lower levels than detected in East Quogue.