Merrimack, New Hampshire. Credit: Flickr user rickpilot_2000 | Public Domain

Public water customers in two New Hampshire towns near a plastics plant have been exposed to a potentially cancer-causing chemical at higher levels than the general U.S. population, but at lower levels than in exposed communities in New York and Vermont, health officials said Tuesday.

The state Department of Health and Human Services announced the findings of its assessment in Merrimack and Bedford. The state analyzed blood samples from 217 people to measure exposure to a chemical used in coatings, such as Teflon, known as PFOA.

The results show participants were exposed the chemical at levels similar to private well owners in southern New Hampshire near the Saint-Gobain Plastics plant in Merrimack. Levels were lower than those found in residents in Bennington, Vermont, and Hoosick Falls, New York, both near a Saint-Gobain facility.

In Vermont, a court recently approved a settlement reached by the state with Saint-Gobain over private water wells in Bennington contaminated by PFOA. The manufacturer will pay $20 million to extend municipal water lines to about 200 homes.

In the New York community, the chemical was found in the municipal water system, more than 800 private water wells and a public school.

PFOA and similar chemicals have been found in water in about a half-dozen communities in southern New Hampshire.