Mothers request medical monitoring for former Pease Air Force Base chemical exposure

A view of the main gate at Pease Air Force Base, N.H., on Oct. 18, 1987.


By JEFF MCMENEMY | The Portsmouth Herald (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 6, 2017

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Several mothers whose children were exposed to contaminated water at the former Pease Air Force Base urged the Task Force on the Seacoast Pediatric Cancer Cluster to recommend ongoing medical monitoring in its final report.

Andrea Amico of Portsmouth, co-founder of the Testing For Pease community group and website, told the task force two of her three children and her husband were exposed to high levels of PFCs from a city-owned well at Pease International Tradeport.

"Medical monitoring is absolutely critical to our community," Amico told the task force at its meeting Wednesday in City Hall. She noted her daughter, who just entered first grade, was exposed to the contaminants while at a day care at Pease. "I wonder how these chemicals are going to impact her body as she grows."

Amico maintained the failure by the state Department of Health and Human Services to recommend ongoing medical monitoring, which was outlined in the landmark C8 health studies, has meant some people who want additional tests for their children are being turned down by their pediatricians.

"It has created barriers for our community accessing medical monitoring," Amico said.

Michelle Dalton of Durham, another Testing for Pease co-founder, said both her and her son were exposed to the PFCs at Pease. She has been unable to get her pediatrician to agree to conduct ongoing medical monitoring for her son because DHHS has not recommended it.

"I'm sure you can understand my frustration," Dalton said. "My child is not like every other unexposed child. Sufficient is not good enough for me and my son."

DHHS's failure to recommend medical monitoring is "actually preventing parents like me from being proactive," she said.

"We didn't ask to be contaminated but the reality is we are," she said. "I feel there's something wrong with that."

Portsmouth mother and Pease Community Assistance Panel (CAP) member Lindsey Carmichael said "my son drank contaminated water for four years." She has "very strong feelings about the need for medical monitoring" and added it offers families the "primary opportunity we have for early detection."

Greenland resident and community activist Jillian Lane read a letter from Testing For Pease co-founder Alayna Davis of Dover, who could not attend Wednesday's meeting because of a work commitment. Davis stated in the letter that she was exposed to the PFCs at Pease when she was pregnant with her son. Her and her husband were "devastated" when they saw the high levels of PFCs in their son's blood.

Her son's exposure continued until he was 5, Davis said in the letter, and she worries PFCs have "compromised his immune system."

Her son missed a week and a half of school last year fighting pneumonia, she said in the letter. She worries how the PFC exposure might affect her son now and decades later. "I would not wish the uncertainty and worry...on any other family," Davis said in the letter.

Their comments came Wednesday after State Epidemologist Dr. Benjamin Chan at a previous task force meeting called the idea of medical monitoring "controversial." He referred to the C8 study and its recommendations for ongoing medical monitoring as "a little controversial because doctors like to base testing decisions on evidence-based medicine."

Task Force Chairman Tom Sherman, a medical doctor, noted he and Chan "have disagreed for a long time about the data that's available to support medical monitoring."

"I disagree wholeheartedly about his statement that this was based on a legal settlement," Sherman said at the previous meeting.

He called the study "one of the largest and most complete and almost the only of its kind focusing on a single compound in a single population."

The science panel on the C8 study concluded there is a probable link from PFOA exposure to "high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension," according to the study's website.

On Wednesday, Task Force member and former City Councilor Stefany Shaheen said she met with Chan and Kim McNamara, the city's health officer, and reported they had written draft recommendations to include in the task force's final report concerning the PFC contamination at Pease. One of those recommendations called for making "heath-care providers and potentially exposed community members aware of the ... C8 Health Project medical monitoring protocols," according to a copy of the draft recommendations.

That would give community members a way "to have an informed discussion to decide if they wish to follow such a medical monitoring protocol," the draft recommendations stated.

After hearing the recommendations, Amico said "at first glance these seem really good." But she stressed Testing For Pease members wanted to see "more specifics" in the report concerning the C8 medical monitoring program.

Shaheen agreed and said they would include the C8 protocol in the report. After the meeting, she said she expected the task force would vote on its final report within a month.

Carmichael, who has a master's degree in public health, said after the meeting that "from the perspective of the Pease CAP members, I would say we want to maximize the chance that anyone who was exposed to the contaminated water at Pease has the opportunity to be screened for adverse health effects."

"The most effective mechanism for achieving this goal is to have a clear recommendation for medical monitoring," she said. "The C8 Medical Panel outlined a medical monitoring protocol, which calls for a variety of different screening tests, broken down by age and gender. This is something I am following for my son, who drank the contaminated water while he attended day care at Pease."

©2017 Portsmouth Herald, N.H.
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