Independent investigation on toxic PFAS levels in six municipalities underway

Independent investigation on toxic PFAS levels in six municipalities underway

May 27, 2022 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Shugo Asato, Wakana Aragaki


High levels of PFAS (organofluorine compounds), which are known to be harmful to the human body, were found in tap water at the Chatan water treatment plant in Okinawa Prefecture. In response, a coordinating committee devised to protect citizens from PFAS will independently investigate the blood PFAS levels among locals starting in late June, in collaboration with Kyoto University. The target population size is approximately 350 and will reside in six selected municipalities in seven areas. The committee hopes the research will spawn sweeping public health studies by the national, prefectural, and municipal governments.


PFAS is not easily broken down and accumulates in the human body. It has been detected at high levels in rivers and groundwaters, especially near U.S. military bases. The independent research will investigate the accumulation of PFAS (namely PFOS, PFOA, and PFHxS) among local subjects and any relationship to human health conditions.


The areas in scope are Chatan, which is supplied with tap water from the Chatan water treatment plant; Nagata and Kiyuna in Ginowan City, where the Futenma Air Station is located; and parts of Okinawa City. Kin, where high levels of PFAS were found in its tap water, and Kadena, where Kadena Air Base is located, are also within the scope. To establish a baseline, the research will also include Ogimi Village, where there are no U.S. military bases or previous findings of PFAS.


The investigation costs will not fall on the residents of the communities in scope but will be funded by the PFAS Health and Environmental Survey Fund, a donation collected by the coordinating committee at prefectural assemblies. The committee will be requesting doctors and healthcare providers to travel to the target neighborhoods and collect blood samples. The sample analyses will be conducted and funded as part of a separate study led by Associate Professor of environmental health at Kyoto University Koji Harada’s epidemiological study pertaining to metabolic disease risk in areas with high exposure to the persistent organic pollutant PFAS.


Sample collection is scheduled to conclude by early August and will take approximately two months to analyze.


For inquiries, contact Toshio Takahashi, secretary-general of the coordinating committee at: 090 (1088) 3007.


(English translation by T&CT and Monica Shingaki)


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