Birth Outcomes in Washington County: MDH Response to Waterfield, Sunding, et al Article in enviromental health

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In January 2018, MDH published a report in response to community concerns in the East Metro. The analyses look at specific health outcomes in Washington and Dakota County communities affected by 3M’s disposal of perfluorochemicals (PFASs), and the subsequent contamination of local groundwater and drinking water. MDH examined vital records data for elevated premature birth and low birth weight in Washington county areas impacted by PFAS contamination, as well as the rest of Washington County and the Metro region. This analytical work reaffirms the value of the protective steps Minnesota has taken to limit health impacts from PFAS chemicals.

MDH scientists examined individual vital records data for low birth weight and prematurity in babies born to mothers in PFC-affected east metro communities in three time periods: 2001-2005, 2006- 2010 and 2011-2015. They compared data from those areas to data from
unaffected communities in the rest of Washington County and the metro region. While they found a lot of variation in those outcomes – with some higher rates and some lower rates of negative health outcomes – the variation was well within the range that would be expected.

Waterfield, Sunding et al considered similar data in their analysis and reached different conclusions published in the “Reducing exposure to high levels of perfluorinated compounds in drinking water improves reproductive outcomes: evidence from an intervention in Minnesota.” MDH reviewed their article and methods used in their analysis. We find that the following issues would contribute to reaching a different conclusion. These issues are echoed in open access Peer Review reports for this article, and they do not appear to have been sufficiently addressed in the publication. The primary differences lie in the assumptions, data and type of analysis used to produce their results.

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