PFOA 2005
August 16, 2005. Avoid C8 water, researcher says.
By Ken Ward Jr. The Charleston Gazette (West Virginia).

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August 16, 2005

The Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)

Avoid C8 water, researcher says

By Ken Ward Jr.
Staff writer

VINCENT, Ohio — Ohio Valley residents should avoid drinking water contaminated with DuPont Co.’s toxic chemical C8, the lead researcher in a major government-funded study said Monday night.

Dr. Edward Emmett, a University of Pennsylvania scientist, also said that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s so-called safe limit for C8 in drinking water — 150 parts per billion — needs to be changed. “I think the nicest thing I can say is that it may need some revision in light of the levels found in people,” Emmett said.

In a landmark study, Emmett said he did not find a link between the levels of C8 in Parkersburg area drinking water and signs of liver, kidney or thyroid illnesses.

But, he said his work did not examine C8’s potential to cause cancer or developmental problems in children. Both have been linked to C8 exposure in rat studies and Emmett said the risk to humans remains unclear.

“There are some things that this study did not look at, particularly in the area of cancer and childhood development,” he said.

Last month, Emmett reported his work had found that residents who depend on C8-contaminated drinking water have 60 to 80 times more of the chemical in their blood than the general U.S. population.

The study — independent of any corporation, law firm or class action lawsuit — is funded through a four-year Environmental Justice Partnership grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. It is collaboration among health scientists at Penn’s school of medicine, the Decatur Community Association in Cutler, Ohio, and a local physician affiliated with Grand Central Family Medicine in Parkersburg.

C8 is another name for perfluorooctanoate, and is also know as perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

At its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg, DuPont has used C8 for more than 50 years in the production of Teflon. The popular product is best known for its use on non-stick cookware, but C8 is also used in everything from waterproof clothing to stain-repellent carpet and ball-bearing lubricants.

For years, C8 — and DuPont’s emissions of it — have been basically unregulated.

Fueled in large part by information uncovered by lawyers suing DuPont over C8 pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched a priority review of the chemical’s dangers. EPA has also sued DuPont for hiding information about C8 toxicity, and the company is facing a criminal investigation for concealing data about the chemical’s hazards.

An EPA science advisory panel has urged the agency, in a draft report, to list C8 as a “likely human carcinogen.”

Last August, DuPont agreed to pay more than $107 million to settle the class-action suit on behalf of more than 50,000 current and former plant neighbors whose water was tainted with C8.

Much of the money will fund a detailed review by private scientists of C8’s dangers and a landmark community health study in the Parkersburg area. The company has also offered to pay for new water treatment systems to remove C8 from local water supplies.

Under the settlement, DuPont could be on the hook for another $235 million in future medical monitoring if the studies find C8 could make people sick. On top of that, the company may also face additional lawsuits if residents actually get sick from C8 exposure.

Last week, the firm running the settlement’s health study announced that 15,000 people had signed up so far to take part in the project. On Monday, a new testing center for that study was scheduled to open in Belpre, Ohio.

The Penn study is independent of that community health study. It is aimed at measuring C8 levels in the blood of local residents, determining the major route of exposure and finding out if the levels of C8 found in the Parkersburg area are likely to make residents sick.

In July, Emmett announced the results of blood sampling of 326 residents from 160 households in four communities in southeastern Ohio: Belpre, Little Hocking, Cutler and Vincent.

Nationwide, the average concentration of C8 in blood is about 5 parts per billion.

Emmett found median concentrations of 298 parts per billion in Belpre, 327 parts per billion in Little Hocking, 328 parts per billion in Cutler and 369 parts per billion in Vincent.

Emmett said residents of those communities should switch to bottled water until long-term water treatment funded by DuPont is installed at their local treatment plants.

Also Monday, the Little Hocking Water Association announced DuPont has agreed to finance a program to provide bottled water to its customers until that treatment system is up and running.

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.

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