Temple receives grant to study link between chemicals, cancer

The research will examine the possible link between chemicals at military bases and cancer.

Dr. Resa Jones, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, speaks at a town hall regarding the PFAS issue at Bright Hall at Temple Ambler on Oct 8. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University is set to receive a $1.28-million grant to research the potential connection between cancer and contaminated drinking water near military bases in the Philadelphia suburbs.

The grant is part of a national study with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which identified seven institutions across the nation to conduct the research, including the University of Colorado and Rutgers University. 

The grant will fund research about Polyfluoroalkyl, a chemical compound found in firefighting foam that is used on military bases around the United States, according to the CDC. In Montgomery and Bucks counties, PFAS on former military bases seeped into the ground and contaminated nearby drinking water, according to a 2018 report from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Inquirer identified Horsham Air Guard Station, formerly known as Naval Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, and the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster as bases with contaminated water. 

The study will examine families exposed to PFAS and any link to kidney and thyroid cancers through blood tests, said Resa Jones, Temple’s lead researcher for the study. 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that there is evidence to PFAS exposure has negative effects on human health, and some studies show it can affect reproduction and developmental, liver and kidney and immunological functions in lab animals. It also caused tumors in lab animals.

At a Temple Ambler event to celebrate the grant on Oct. 8, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-PA, said he hopes the health screenings of families will build an understanding of the health impacts of years of exposure to PFAS.

“The CDC would not have awarded this funding to our community if they did not trust we were amply equipped to maximize these resources for the greater good,” Boyle said.

“In the year 2019, in the United States of America, every American should be able to trust the drinking water coming out of their tap,” he added 

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-PA,  recited “the people have a right to clean air, pure water” from the state’s constitution at the event. 

Katrina Caddick, who lives in Horsham and works at the Montgomery County Planning Commission, lives a mile away from the Horsham Air Guard Station and has to buy drinking water for her family out of fear of contamination, she said. 

“The deed on my home now has a black mark to indicate that my house is on contaminated land,” Caddick said.

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