PFOA 2005
August 28, 2005. DEP has no plans to revisit C8 water limit.
By Ken Ward Jr. Sunday Gazette-Mail (West Virginia).

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Sunday Gazette-Mail (Charleston, West Virginia)

August 28, 2005

DEP has no plans to revisit C8 water limit

By Ken Ward Jr.
Staff writer

West Virginia regulators do not plan to re-examine their water pollution “screening level” for the toxic chemical C8, despite an independent scientists’ conclusion that the number is flawed.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has no plans to reconsider its limit for C8 in drinking water of 150 parts per billion, said agency spokeswoman Jessica Greathouse.

Greathouse said that the DEP would wait and see what — if any — recommendations for C8 regulations come out of a federal review of the chemical.

During a public meeting Aug. 15, University of Pennsylvania researcher Dr. Edward Emmett recommended that the DEP figure was far too high and should be revised.

“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 during the meeting in Vincent, Ohio.

Emmett said that his review did not link C8 exposure from area drinking water to liver, thyroid or kidney problems. Emmett emphasized that his study did not consider cancer or developmental problems in children.

Emmett encouraged Parkersburg-area residents not to drink water contaminated with C8. He suggested bottled water as an alternative, until new treatment systems are installed.

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

At the 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 nonstick 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 basically been 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 allegedly hiding information about C8 toxicity, and the company is facing a criminal investigation for concealing data about the chemical’s hazards.

In May 2002, DEP finalized its 150-part-per-billion C8 limit following a study led by Dee Ann Staats, who was then the agency’s science adviser. Staats’ work on the project was funded by DuPont, and the chemical company had a representative on the study team.

The study was launched as part of a November 2001 settlement between DuPont and the DEP to resolve potential C8-related pollution violations by the Washington Works plant.

Under the deal, the DEP C8 screening level was to be the “concentration in a specific media such as air, water or soil that is likely to be without an appreciable risk of deleterious effects during a lifetime in the human population.” If C8 exposures were found to be above that level, DuPont was required to submit to the DEP a plan to reduce those exposures.

Emmett, whose research is funded by the federal government, said he was especially concerned about childhood exposure to C8.

In his study, Emmett said he found that C8 levels of 150 parts per billion in water would eventually result in blood levels in children of 20,000 to 25,000 parts per billion.

Such concentrations, Emmett said, are greater than scientists have found even in plant employees who work directly with C8.

“We don’t know that it’s safe for children,” Emmett said. “I think it needs to be revisited.”

Greathouse said that since Staats left her post as the DEP’s science adviser, there is no one left at the agency who can answer detailed questions about the C8 screening level.

“We don’t have plans to review the number, but we are looking to EPA for guidance,” Greathouse said last week. “If and when they develop a number, we will follow their lead.”

Chris Caldwell, a DuPont spokesman, declined to comment for this story.

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

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