A chemical made by the 3M Co. found in drinking water may be linked to cancer of the testicles and the kidneys, according to a panel of scientists.
The panel studied the effects of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, in drinking water in Ohio and West Virginia, but smaller amounts of the same chemical have been found in Washington County, the Pioneer Press said.
There is no reason to think there is an increased cancer risk in Minnesota based on the study, said Jean Johnson, epidemiologist for the Minnesota Department of Health.
The findings are inconsistent with those of other studies and must be backed up by further research, she said.
"I am not discounting it - it's something we will have to watch," Johnson said. The PFOA found in Washington County residents is about one-tenth the level found in residents of Ohio and West Virginia, she said.
A panel of scientists formed in 2005 by a judge in West Virginia completed the study, sctimes.com said. The judge ruled that residents had been drinking traces of PFOA that leaked into the groundwater from a nearby DuPont Corp. plant and told the panel to study the health effects.
The three-scientist panel studied the health records of 32,000 people in the area, sctimes.com said. It found 19 people had testicular cancer and 113 had kidney cancer. The panel found that the higher the level of PFOA in their bodies, the greater the rates of those cancers.
In an email written by 3M medical director Dr. Larry R. Zobel, 3M gave this response to the study:
"In more than 25 years of medical surveillance, we have observed no adverse health effects in our employees resulting from their exposure to ... PFOA," Zobel said.
"This is very important since the level of exposure in the general population is much lower than that of production employees who worked directly with these materials."