The Vermont of Department of Health on Tuesday released the results from a series of eight blood clinics that were held in the spring, and some of the people in Bennington County who had their blood tested for PFOA showed extremely high levels of the chemical in their bodies.
The highest blood test results showed levels of Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, at more than 1,000 micrograms per liter. The average American has about 2 micrograms per liter.
According to the Health Department, the average Bennington and North Bennington blood test showed levels of PFOA at about 10 micrograms per liter.
PFOA is a suspected carcinogen that was used at the former Chemfab plant in North Bennington. The plant, which was closed in 2002, used PFOA in a chemical mixture to help affix weatherproofing to fabric.
Recently, a federal panel determined that PFOA is "presumed" to alter immune system functions in humans.
Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen says the blood test results were not unexpected, given the high levels of PFOA in some wells.
He says state health officials are reaching out to area doctors to prepare them for the questions that are likely to be raised by their patients who are getting their personal blood test results back.
"We've been working to keep everyone informed as we get more information," Chen said in a press release. "I understand that seeing the blood test result can renew your worry, and I encourage everyone to talk with their doctor if you have specific concerns about your health as it relates to your test result."
Chen says the test results cannot tell if the PFOA exposure will cause health problems, or if a current health condition was caused by exposure to PFOA.
The department tested 477 adults and children who have been drinking water from private wells contaminated with PFOA.
Repeated studies have shown that when individuals stop drinking contaminated water, their PFOA blood level goes down, the Health Department says.
It takes about two to four years for PFOA blood levels to reduce by half.