June 28, 2005
The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware)
EPA panel calls C-8 a
By JEFF MONTGOMERY
A chemical used to make DuPont’s Teflon coatings and thousands
of other consumer and industrial products and coatings is a “likely”
carcinogen, and may pose greater risks beyond cancer, according
to a review by an Environmental Protection Agency advisory panel.
The EPA Science Advisory Board’s
“Perfluorooctanoic Acid Human Health Risk Assessment Review
Panel” plans to take public comments on the draft report
during a meeting July 6 in Washington, D.C. Agency officials released
the draft document, labeled “Do Not Cite or Quote,”
today in advance of the public comment session.
“While human data is ambiguous, two
separate feeding studies demonstrate that PFOA is a multi-site
carcinogen,” the report noted, adding that the “likely”
designation “is typically applied to agents that have tested
positive in more than one species, sex, strain, site or exposure
route, with or without evidence of carcinogenicity in humans.”
Members of the Environmental Working Group,
a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., said the findings
appear to back up the EPA’s recent decision to launch civil
and criminal investigations into DuPont’s handling of health
information involving PFOA, also known as C-8. DuPont could face
millions in fines in those probes.
“This is significant, because it
pushes the process along,” said Richard Wiles, senior vice
president of the Environmental Working Group. “This definitely
kick-starts it, and really makes it harder for the EPA not to
move forward aggressively” with further risk studies.
DuPont said that findings from past studies
warrant a different recommendation. But the company also said
it “recognizes that the presence of PFOA in human blood
raises questions that should be addressed.”
Past studies have found unexplained low
levels of PFOA-type chemicals in the bloodstreams of humans and
animals around the globe. Some studies already
have provided “suggestive evidence” that the chemicals
may increase cancer risks, and may remain in the environment for
thousands of years.
“Based on an evaluation of human
health and toxicology studies, DuPont believes that the weight
of evidence suggests that PFOA exposure does not cause cancer
in humans, and does not pose a health risk to the general public,”
the company said. “To date, no human health effects are
known to be caused by PFOA even in workers who have significantly
higher exposure levels than the general population.”
DuPont already has announced a plan to
drastically reduce the amount of PFOA used in Teflon production
by the end of next year.
Earlier this year, the EPA released a separate
draft report noting that exposure to PFOA may increase the risk
of developmental or immune disorders and other health problems.
The same report also said blood levels
in the general population appear to be hundreds or thousands of
times lower than the minimum expected to produce adverse effects
in rats and monkeys.
But human bodies may retain and concentrate
the pollutants for much longer periods than animals, the EPA cautioned.
Higher exposure to PFOA-type compounds in the workplace or in
neighborhoods around factories that handle the chemicals also
are a concern.
Contact Jeff Montgomery at 678-4277 or