Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Federal officials go door-to-door in New Castle for PFAS exposure study

Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media

The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry began knocking on doors in New Castle Wednesday, recruiting participants for its study on exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals found in drinking water there in 2014.

The agency sent letters to 885 households more than a month ago inviting them to participate in the study. The households were chosen randomly from the roughly 6,000 near the New Castle Air National Guard base the federal agency thinks were likely exposed to the water containing levels of  per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) above the EPA's health advisory level. 

Karl Markiewicz, senior toxicologist at CDC/ATSDR, said last month the agency aims to recruit 400 participants in New Castle. 

Households are eligible to participate if they have lived in the study area for one year prior to August 5, 2014 for customers of the Municipal Services Commission water supply system and July 18, 2016 for customers of the Artesian water supply system, according to CDC/ATSDR.

Participants will have their blood and urine tested for the chemicals, and will receive their personal results before the larger study is finished. Markiewicz said water and dust will also be sampled in roughly 10 percent of the participating households. The testing is scheduled to take place next month. 

ATSDR will continue door-to-door recruiting through this weekend or next week.

New Castle is one of eight sites chosen for a two-year nationwide study comparing PFAS exposure around former and current military bases where the chemicals have been found in drinking water to exposure in the general population. 

PFAS contamination in groundwater or drinking water has also been found in Dover and the Town of Blades. Some PFAS chemicals have been shown to affect development and increase the risk of cancer.


Other than through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which has measured blood PFAS in the U.S. population since 1999, CDC/ATSDR has not yet conducted any PFAS exposure investigations in Delaware.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
Related Content