An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Federal Officials Study Health Effects Of Contaminated Water In Airway Heights

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Federal health officials are in Airway Heights to learn about whether exposure to a firefighting chemical foam has harmed peoples’ health.

The foam was used to train firefighters and put out fires at Fairchild Air Force Base. It contained a substance known by the acronym PFAS. That substance was found in the drinking water in Airway Heights in 2017. Once it was discovered, local officials removed the contaminated wells from service and distributed bottled water to those who needed it.

Now the question is whether exposure to the chemical has damaged people’s health. Arthur Wendel [wendle] from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is in Airway Heights to recruit participants for what he calls an ‘exposure assessment.’

“The design of the exposure assessment is to help us understand whether the communities who were living in places where there was PFAS in the water at levels above the lifetime health advisory, whether we can see a difference between those folks and the national population of PFAS level in the blood,” Wendel said.

For the next six weeks, Wendel and his colleagues will recruit Airway Heights residents who want to participate. People in their targeted area will receive mail from the agency during the next few days.

To be part of the study, they must have lived in Airway Heights for at least a year prior to June 2017, and be at least three years old. They’ll fill out a questionnaire and give blood and urine samples. After those are tested, participants will be notified about how much PFAS was in their blood and urine.