Frequently Asked Questions
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Water Contamination from PFAS in Fountain, Security, Stratmoor Hills
Q: What are PFAS?
A: PFAS stands for poly- and perfluoroalkyl substance, though they are sometimes referred to as PFCs (perfluorinated compounds). A large number of chemicals (up to 5,000) are included in this group and they are typically used as a mixture. PFAS are man-made. They do not occur naturally in the environment. Two of these chemicals, PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoate), are detectable in 99% of people in the US. The PFAS mixture in the Fountain, Security and Widefield water systems contain a high level of PFHxS (perfluorohexane sulfonate), a substance which is less well studied than PFOS and PFOA.
Q: What are PFAS used for?
A: PFAS have many uses in industry and consumer products, including food packaging, nonstick, stain and water repellent coatings, and fire-fighting foams.
Q: How did PFAS get in the drinking water of the Fountain Valley Communities (FVC)?
A: PFAS are a major component of AFFF (aqueous film forming foams), which were used at Peterson Airforce Base starting in 1970 to put out fuel fires. Use of AFFF at Peterson has been identified as the source of PFAS in the water supplies of the FVC. Over the years the AFFF has seeped into the ground water and traveled slowly through the water table, eventually contaminating drinking water sources used in the FVC.
Q: How long has the water been contaminated?
A: It is not known how long the drinking water sources have been contaminated in the FVC. The contamination goes back at least as far as 2013 based on sampling results released by US EPA In 2015.
Q: Is the water still contaminated?
A: The Water Authorities have installed treatment systems that are effective at reducing PFAS in the water supply. Some water systems also changed water sources to prevent future exposure. Water from the public system now has PFAS levels below the EPA’s health advisory of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOS and PFOA. Since water treatment systems were installed or the source of the water was changed, sampling has found most PFAS at levels below a detectable level. . The Air Force has also been working with affected private well owners to treat and/or provide alternative water supplies.
To learn more about what each water system has done to reduce PFAS exposure visit the following web pages:
Q: What are the possible health effects from drinking water contaminated with PFAS?
A: In humans, high levels of exposure to PFOA/PFOS are associated with several health effects.
EPA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer list PFAS as “possible carcinogens,” with links to kidney and testicular cancer.
Non-cancer health effects linked to PFAS in individuals with high exposure include thyroid disease, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced hypertension, low-infant birth-weight and effects on the immune system
Q: Where can I get more information about using water that may be contaminated for things other than drinking like laundry, cooking and gardening?
A: Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment provides guidance on this question here
Colorado SCOPE and The ATSDR Multi-Site Health Study:
Q: What is the purpose of the study?
A: Colorado SCOPE is one of seven sites around the country included in the ATSDR multi-site health study. The goal of the multi-site health study is to expand scientific knowledge of the relationships between PFAS exposure and certain health outcomes and help people better understand how exposure to PFAS may impact their health. The study will look at many specific health endpoints, such as lipid metabolism, kidney function, thyroid disease, liver disease, glycemic parameters and diabetes, as well as immune response. The study will also include a ground water modeling and historic exposure reconstruction component to determine the extent and future path of the water contamination.
Q: What is involved if I want to participate in the study?
A: We will be recruiting 1000 adults and 300 children from the Fountain, Security, Stratmoor Hills and Widefield area. Participants will give blood and urine samples, answer questions about their demographic characteristics, lifestyle, work history and health. Study staff will also collect height and weight and blood pressure. Children will undergo neurobehavioral testing under the supervision of a psychologist. With permission, study staff will also request and review participant school and medical records.
Q: When will the study take place?
A: Recruiting began in October 2021. The blood sampling, questionnaire completion and neurobehavioral testing will continue through September 30, 2023.
Q: Where will the study take place?
A: Participants will be asked to come to the study office located at: 320 S. Santa Fe Avenue, Fountain, CO 80817
Q: What if I do not speak English or English is my second language?
A: If you require Spanish language interpretation, please let us know during the phone call screening. A bilingual staff member will be able to help you if you speak Spanish. Unfortunately, for languages other than Spanish or English we are not able to offer translation services.
Para encontrar esta hoja informativa en español, haga clic aquí.
Q: Will you try to sell me something?
A. No. This study does not have anything to sell or buy. This is a study that is paid for completely and will be carried out at no charge to you.
Q: Are there any risks from taking part in the study?
A: Your only risk from taking part in the study is from having your blood drawn. It involves a needle, so it might hurt a little when we take the sample. At most, you may have some bruising afterward where the blood is drawn.
Participation in Colorado SCOPE:
Q: Who can I contact for more information or to participate in the study?
A. For further questions or if you are interested in participating in the study:
Q: What are the eligibility requirements for the study?
A: While subject to change, these are the expected eligibility criteria for the study:
Age limit: Children must be age 4 or older but there is no upper age limit for adults. All parents may be eligible to enroll with more than one child. Some adult individuals will be eligible to take part as both an adult and as a parent.
Residence: Must currently live in, or previously lived in, an area that was impacted by PFAS water contamination in Fountain, Security, Stratmoor Hills or Widefield prior to PFAS remediation by the water systems. In other words, people who lived during the time of contamination (through Oct 2015 for our study area) within 15 years of the study start date (2006) may participate.
Employment: You will not be eligible if you were ever employed as a firefighter, ever participated in fire training exercises using aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), or were ever employed in industrial facilities that used PFAS in the manufacturing process (i.e., PFAS manufacturing workers, chrome plating workers, electronics, pulp and paper mill workers, and automotive service technicians and mechanics). Children will be excluded if their birth mothers were ever employed in these professions.
Q: Will it cost me any money to participate in the study?
A. No. Along with receiving a customized report of individual results, you will be compensated for your time up to $50.00 (adults) and $75.00 (children), or $25 per completed portion. The gift cards are our way of thanking you for taking part in the study.
$25 gift card for completing the questionnaire.
$25 gift card for completing body and blood pressure measures and giving blood and urine samples.
An additional $25 gift card for each child who completes the neurobehavioral tests.
Q: Can I still participate in the study if I am involved in the lawsuit? Will you share my results with my lawyer? Is this study related to the lawsuit?
A: Yes, you can still participate. Being involved in the lawsuit is not a barrier to entry for the study. CO-SCOPE is not affiliated with the lawsuit and your results will not be shared. You may share your results with whomever you choose, but CO-SCOPE will only release them to you.
Q: Can I participate in this study if I have already participated in other PFAS studies?
A: Each PFAS study has a different purpose.. See below for a breakdown of three PFAS studies currently or recently occurring in the Fountain Valley Communities. Eligibility criteria for each study varies. If you participated in PFAS-AWARE or the Exposure Assessment you are still eligible to participate in CO SCOPE. *Check out our one-stop-shop website for more information about each study and their differences: www.pfas-fvc.org.
Q: Why should I participate in the study if my exposure to PFAS in drinking water stopped >4 years ago?
A: Your participation in the study is not mandatory, but encouraged because PFAS remain in your body for a very long time and may increase your risk of certain health effects. This means that although exposure has stopped, health effects linked to PFAS are still possible.
Your participation will help not only yourself, your family and your community, but it will also advance scientific research about PFAS and the human body and inform healthcare professionals about the effects of PFAS on public health. By learning more about PFAS in the Fountain Valley Communities, we can estimate how long you had PFAS in your drinking water, guide public policy, and inform community awareness.
Q: How much time will it take for an eligible adult to participate?
A: All potential participants should expect to first complete a 5-minute screening over the phone. If eligible, this will be followed by consenting and a questionnaire that may take between 45 and 60 minutes. Then comes the scheduling of the in-person appointment at the study office. Once in the office, a COVID-19 check-in may be led by our Professional Research Assistants, followed by the blood draw (about 15-30 minutes). In total, adult participation will require about 1.5 to 2 hours.
Q: How much time will an eligible parent and child need to commit to participate?
A: Following a 10-minute phone screening to determine eligibility and the consent process, we'll schedule the blood draw and have the parent and child combination complete a questionnaire and schedule their office appointment, which in total may take between 60 minutes and 1.5 hours. The in-person appointment will include the blood draw (10-15 minutes each), and the neurobehavioral testing for children (up to 1.5 hours). Due to this additional testing, total participation for parents and children together in the study is expected to last between 2.5 and 3.5 hours. If you have 2 or more children, we can schedule dual neurobehavioral testing in the office, which means we can schedule and host up to two children in NBT testing at the same time.
Q: Will the neurobehavioral testing be strenuous for my child?
A: The neurobehavioral testing will involve questions, answers, and a few activities involving toy-like instruments. The tests are not designed to be physically or mentally strenuous, but do take time to complete. A stated above, this portion may take up to 1.5 hours to complete.
Q: What is the process for my child's appointment, from the blood draw to the neurobehavioral testing?
Pre-appointment requirements: To reduce person-to-person contact, and time spent in the study office, participation initially involves over-the-phone activities. These include screening of potential participants, completing about 1 hour of questionnaires, and scheduling office appointments for blood draws and neurobehavioral testing by our trained Professional Research Assistants. Please see the section on "Preparing for the Questionnaire" for more information.
The night before the scheduled appointment: Parents and children will fast 8 hours, which means no eating after dinner and until after the blood draw the next morning. At the office appointment, COVID-19 protections will be practiced with care, and a trained phlebotomist who has experience with all age groups will perform the blood draws. Parents and children may be in the same room for this part of the process. Afterward, we'll have breakfast snacks available before the children participate in the neurobehavioral testing. If the parent would prefer to bring their own snacks, that is fine as long as no snack is eaten until after the blood is drawn. Please see the section on "Preparing for Your Appointment" for more information.
Child portion of the neurobehavioral testing process: This includes both cognitive assessment and questionnaires. For 1 to 1.5 hours, children between ages 4-17 will complete interactive activities assessing their skills in visual problem-solving, attention, response inhibition, memory, language, and planning. Children of the same age will participate in the same evaluations, but not all age groups will complete the same sets of tests. This allows children of different ages to be asked to complete activities that are engaging, and interesting for them. One of the measures will be completed on the computer, others use pictures to present problems, or ask children to remain focused during distractions. Breaks will be provided, as needed.
Parent portion of the neurobehavioral testing process: We ask that parents remain on-site during the entire testing period. During the first 15-20 minutes, parents will be asked to describe their child(ren)’s behavior, including emotional responses, ability to pay attention and plan, and social behaviors. Then, while the child completes neurobehavioral testing, parents and children will be separated for about one hour. A window in the door to the testing room will allow parents to check on their child should they be concerned.
Q: Will I get my personal results from the blood sampling?
A: Yes. We will mail your test results to you. You will receive your individual results of the blood sampling approximately six months to one year after your study visit. You will also be able to see how your individual results compare to the average values in the study population.
Q: Will my insurance provider see the results of the blood testing? Will the results of the test impact my insurance premiums?
A: No. We will not ask any questions about your insurance provider or attempt to contact your insurance provider. You may share your results with whomever you choose, but CO-SCOPE will only release them to you.
Q: Will you measure PFAS in my blood?
A: Yes. We will test your blood for PFAS. We will let you know what your PFAS levels are. If you were part of any other PFAS study (such as PFAS-AWARE), we will compare those results to the Multi-site Study results, if possible.
Q: What can I do if I find out I have high PFAS levels in my blood?
A: If you have high levels of PFAS in your blood it does not necessarily mean you will experience negative health impacts. There is no established PFAS blood level at which a health risk is expected, nor is there a level that is clearly associated with past, current, or future health problems. However, if you are concerned about your high PFAS levels we encourage you to talk with your medical provider using this resource as a guide. Your doctor may encourage preventative screening for health effects (like high cholesterol) that have been associated with higher PFAS levels in some scientific studies.
While there is no known method to speed up elimination of PFAS from your body, you may consider taking steps to reduce your personal PFAS exposure. Examples of things that may reduce your PFAS exposure include: avoiding non-stick cookware (like Teflon) and avoiding using stain and water repellant treatments/sprays on clothing, furniture and carpeting. You can find more information about reducing your personal exposure here.
Q: Will you do other blood tests?
A: Yes. We will test your blood for many health markers including but not limited to: cholesterol, liver enzymes, kidney function, and hormones. These results may help us learn more about how PFAS affect health. Most of these tests are used routinely by doctors to assess health.
Q: Will you measure PFAS in my urine?
A: Yes. Because scientists are learning more about PFAS every day, your urine sample will be stored for the future until we have better PFAS tests that use urine. It might be a year or more before ATSDR uses the urine samples collected in this study, but this way the scientists already have them if additional tests become available.
Q: What if my test results reveal a health problem such as high cholesterol or risk of cancer?
A. If a blood test reveals a health problem, we will contact you as soon as possible after the laboratory sends us the result. At that time, please work with your doctor or nurse to go over any actions related to problematic test results.
Q: Can I change my mind about taking part after I start?
A. You can always choose whether you want to be part of this study or not. You can stop at any time by telling the study staff that you do not want to continue. You also can refuse to answer any question or choose not to have your blood drawn or give a urine sample. There is no penalty for refusal or withdrawal from the study.
Q: If I would like to take part in the study but cannot find transportation to the office, can I still take part?
A. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 precautions and budget cuts we will not be able to offer home visits to participants who are unable to make it to the study office. There is a possibility this will change as the study progresses.
Q: What precautions are being taken to protect participants and staff in light of COVID-19?
A: We have a detailed COVID safety plan that includes the following precautions:
Personal protective equipment for all staff
Surgical masks provided to all study participants
Modifying the study office space to increase ventilation
Staggered scheduling of study participants
Reducing in-person contact and time spent in office by conducting questionnaire interviews over the phone
Conducting study activities outside to the extent possible
Contingency plans for if a participant or staff member tests positive
Protection of Rights:
Q: Are my personal information and study results protected?
A: This research is covered under a certificate of confidentiality. This means we are obligated and committed to keeping your personal information private and confidential to the level required by law. Any staff involved in this study will not receive any pressure by law to reveal your identity, and this study can only release your information if you agree to it.
The Colorado School of Public Health and ATSDR will use a code number instead of your name for your answers and test results. We will protect any computer files with your information and keep them secure. Only study staff with a need to know will have access to your information and test results.
During data review and analysis, research staff will combine your answers with those of all other participants. Other scientists might ask for information from this study. If we share the information with them, we will first make sure that you cannot be identified.
Q: How are you going to use the data?
A. The Multi-Site Study will combine everyone’s results to get a picture of the health issues of highly exposed groups of people and how the results might relate to PFAS exposures. We will write reports or scientific articles about the study results and how we analyzed the results. You will be able to see these reports or articles after the study is finished.
Q: What if I have additional questions about my rights related to this study?
A. Contact the study office in Fountain or contact the CDC/ATSDR Human Research Protection Helpline at 1-800-584-8814. Leave a message about CDC Protocol No. 7207 and a brief message about your concern or question.
Preparing for the Questionnaire:
Q: Will the questionnaire include anything about my medical history?
A. Please come prepared with knowledge and records of your medical and employment history. There will be questions about mother’s and children’s exposures, especially about the mother’s history, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. We will also ask about your health in general, your family’s health history, your job, and about other ways that you might be exposed to PFAS. For adults 18 and older, we will also ask about health behaviors such as the use of alcohol and tobacco.
Q: Can I do the questionnaire interview by telephone?
A: Yes. To minimize the risk associated with time spent in the study office related to COVID-19 transmission for both participants and Multi-site Study team members, and until related restrictions are lifted, we will administer all study questionnaires over the phone.
Q: What if I don’t know how to answer the questions?
A: If you do not know or do not remember an answer, you can simply say so.
Q: Can someone else respond to questions on the questionnaire for me?
A: No. It is important that we interview only individuals who are eligible, and to ensure this we will interview only the participant. However, study staff will ask parents or guardians to answer questions about their children. If at any time you are having trouble with speaking, a household member may assist you.
Preparing for Your Appointment:
Q: What will happen before my appointment and at my appointment?
After screening you for eligibility, and prior to your appointment, we will schedule a time with you to complete the questionnaire about your exposure to the water, as well as your medical history. This will take about 30 minutes to complete. If you are a parent who also enrolled as an adult, there will be another set of questionnaires about your child that will take about 15 minutes.
On the day of your appointment, we will measure your and/or your child’s height, weight, waist-to-hip ratio, and blood pressure.
We will receive and store the urine sample that you collected that morning.
We will collect a fasting blood sample. A trained phlebotomist (professionally trained and licensed person who can draw blood) will draw a few teaspoons of blood from a vein in your arm or your child’s arm. We will label your samples with a study identification code only. To protect your privacy, your name will not be on the collection tubes.
If you are a parent or guardian, we will also ask you to complete an assessment of your child’s attention and behaviors. It should take about 15 minutes.
Trained professionals will give child participants a behavioral assessment. These tests can take about 90 minutes or less. The tests are designed especially for children, are done at the child’s pace, and should not make the child too tired.
Q: How do I get ready for my appointment?
A: We will send you instructions on how to prepare for the appointment, but here are some preliminaries:
On the morning of the appointment, as soon as you get up, you will need to collect your urine in the sample cup provided in the packet you got, or help your child collect urine. After collecting the urine sample in the cup, cap the cup, write the date and time on the cup, and seal the cup in the provided plastic bag. Place the sample cup in the refrigerator until it is time to go to your appointment. When you are ready to leave for your appointment, put the sample cup in the cooler with the frozen ice pack that was given to you, and bring it with you to the appointment.
Please DO NOT TO EAT at least 8 hours before your appointment so that we can collect a fasting blood sample at the appointment. This way the blood sample gives us better information.
If you are taking any medications or dietary supplements, such as vitamins, herbs, or natural medicines, please bring them to the appointment or tell us about them.
If your child is participating, we will ask about his or her most recent vaccinations. If you have your child’s vaccination record card, please bring it.
If you were a part of any PFAS blood testing program (such as PFAS-AWARE or the ATSDR Exposure Assessment), please bring your results.
Q: How can I prepare my child for the day of our appointment?
A: Please adjust your child’s daily routine for an 8-hour fast, starting with a good meal and a good night’s rest the night before your appointment. Younger children may have a harder time understanding the expectations associated with fasting, early morning appointments or blood draws, however, try to help your child prepare by communicating the process in a simple, thoughtful way. Also, snacks will be provided for you after the blood draw, but you are more than welcome to bring snacks of your own to eat to help yourself and your child make it through the subsequent neurobehavioral assessments.
Each child will spend an average of 90 minutes completing two to three tests under the direction of a trained professional.
Each parent will spend an average of 15 minutes completing two tests about their children.