July 28, 2005
The Marietta Times (Ohio)
New study finds levels of chemical up in
people using water
By Justin McIntosh and Tom Hrach
Citizens who use water from the Little Hocking
Water Association were found to have levels of the chemical C8
in their blood 60 to 80 times greater than what is typically found
in the general population.
A study released Wednesday from an independent, government-sponsored
research group also determined that water was the major cause
of C8 in the blood of area citizens. The
study focused on residents in the communities of Belpre, Little
Hocking, Cutler and Vincent.
More about the study is expected to be released at a public meeting
set for 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15, at Warren High School. The latest
study on the chemical used at DuPont’s Washington Works
plant focused on 326 residents from 160 households in the four
communities, all of whom were customers of the water association.
The chemical has been used by DuPont at its Washington Works
plant across the Ohio River from Belpre and Little Hocking since
the 1950s, and it has been a health concern for many residents
and officials in the Belpre and Little Hocking areas.
A link between C8 and diseases in humans hasn’t been established,
though a science advisory board working with the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency recently said the chemical is a likely carcinogen.
DuPont officials maintain the chemical is not harmful to humans.
Edward A. Emmett, professor of occupational
and environmental medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School
of Medicine, said the early results from this study, combined
with the uncertainty about the chemical’s safety, prompted
him to release the results now.
“We felt an ethical and moral obligation
that once we were certain the water was the main thing to let
people and the authorities and everybody know that,” Emmett
said in a conference call Wednesday.
Emmett said the third aspect of the study has not been released
yet because further analysis is needed.
Citizens in the affected areas have been bombarded with news
recently with studies about the chemical, and at least one says
it’s time to use the studies to take some action rather
than continue to investigate.
“You should not have to go to so many meetings or do so
many studies to find out that the levels are out of whack,”
said Deborah Hughes, 49, of Belpre. “How many more years
are we going to wait to figure out that this is unsafe? Why don’t
we just go and clean it up now? Let’s not wait any longer
on an answer.”
Dave Freeman, 45, of Cutler participated
in the most recent study, and he said the most significant finding
is that the chemical is entering people through the water. He
said that allows citizens to have some control to protect themselves.
He and his family are now drinking bottled water.
“What did surprise me was to find
such high levels in some of the children,” Freeman said.
“Since I have two boys, that concerns me. We don’t
know yet what these high levels mean, but we hope to get some
more answers on Aug. 15.”
The latest study was funded through a four-year
Environmental Justice Partnership grant from the National Institute
of Environmental Health Services. The study was done with environmental
health scientists at Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine,
Decatur Community Association in Cutler and a local physician
with Grand Central Family Medicine in Parkersburg.
The study’s results coincide with another independent study
released last week by the Little Hocking Water Association. That
study found that the level of C8 in the blood of 25 water association
customers was significantly higher than residents living in Lubeck,
W.Va., much closer to the DuPont Washington Works plant where
the chemical is used.
Another study being peformed as part of a class-action lawsuit
against DuPont is in the beginning stages. That study will test
the blood of about 80,000 area residents.
In a statement from DuPont, the company said the most recent
study reinforces the need to conduct the study as part of the
class action lawsuit. Also, the company said it has placed a priority
on installing equipment on water treatment plants to address the
level of the chemical in drinking water systems.
Emmett said there were several factors
that led to the study concluding that drinking water was the major
source of contamination of C8.
The four communities were chosen for the study because they were
all water association customers and
two of the communities were separated from DuPont by some distance.
The Little Hocking Water Association is one of the six water
districts where C8 can be found. About 12,000 customers are served
by the water association.
That variable of distance to the plant
versus water supply would help determine whether it was air, water
or some combination that led to the high levels of C8, Emmett
Since the study found all four communities
to have stastically similar levels of C8 that ruled out air as
a possible source of contamination, Emmett said.
The median blood level of C8 in Belpre
was 298 parts per billion; Little Hocking was 327 parts per billion;
Cutler was 328 parts per billion; and Vincent was 369 parts per
billion, Emmett said.
Blood test results released in the water association’s
own study show the level of C8 to be at a low of 112 parts per
billion and a high of 1,040 parts per billion, said Robert Griffin,
general manager of the water association.
Other blood tests done in the past year near the Washington Works
facility found C8 in the blood of non-workers to be at a low of
15.7 parts per billion and a high of 128 parts per billion. At
another DuPont site in Minnesota, C8 was in the blood of non-workers
at a low of 2.01 parts per billion and a high of 121 parts per
Emmett said the study’s findings will result in some recommendations,
one of which is to ask the West Virginia EPA to reconsider what
it considers to be a safe level of C8 in water.
The C8 “safety” level set by the West Virginia EPA
and agreed upon by the Ohio EPA for C8 in water is 150 ppb. But
the study found the common level of C8 in water to be only 2 ppb.
Emmett said the high blood levels of C8 was of concern considering
the chemical is in the water at a level of only 2 ppb. If the
chemical was found in the water at the “safety” level,
the blood levels of area residents could jump astronomically.
“That’s levels of something like 20,000 to 30,000
parts per billion. They would be extremely high levels to have
in even an occupationally exposed group,” Emmett said. “I’m
sure people in this community would not want to be averaging around
that amount of C8 in their blood when we’re uncertain about
all the effects.”
Copyright © 2005 — The Marietta Times