November 6, 2005
The Beacon Jounal (Ohio)
Thousands sign up for C8
BELPRE, Ohio - Ted Johnson worked 35 years at DuPont Co.'s Washington
Works plant and believed what company officials said about the
safety of the operation. Now, he's not so sure.
Johnson and wife Barbara are among more than 43,000 Mid-Ohio
Valley residents who have signed up for tests that could determine
if a chemical used to make Teflon has affected their health.
"At first I thought, 'What I don't know, won't hurt me,'"
says Barbara. "We're 69 and I thought we've been doing pretty
But on a recent rainy Friday afternoon, the couple yielded to
the pressure from their four grown children and made the 17-mile
trip from their home in Cutler to Belpre to submit questionnaires
about their personal health history. The questionnaires are part
of a process DuPont agreed to fund to settle a class-action lawsuit
over the chemical ammonium perfluorooctanoate, also known as C8.
Area residents sued DuPont in 2001, claiming the chemical used
at the West Virginia plant contaminated public and private water
Since August, more than 17,000 residents in the six Ohio and
West Virginia water districts covered by the settlement have submitted
blood samples and gone through the 45-minute health history interview.
But the project has a several week waiting list of about 26,000
people, and it's expected that up to 60,000 will eventually take
Though used since World War II, C8's long-term effects on humans,
if any, are unknown. The screenings and a subsequent analysis
will try to determine if there is a link.
DuPont maintains C8 is not hazardous and cites studies on about
1,100 Washington Works employees as proof. It also points to the
results of a recent independent health screening of about 380
residents who live near the plant and receive water from the Little
Hocking (Ohio) Water Association, one of the districts covered
by the settlement.
The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine study found
the residents had up to 80 times more C8 in their blood than the
general population, but the researchers said they could not find
a link to increased liver, kidney, thyroid or cholesterol problems.
They agreed, however, that more study was needed.
Interest in the current project is high because with about 2,800
workers, DuPont is one of the region's largest employers.
"In a small town like this, it's huge," says Belpre
resident Lori Bradshaw, a town of about 6,500 along the Ohio River.
"When you've been in this area all of our lives, and to think
something like this could be going on, and so many people could
be affected, it's really scary."
About 300 people a day travel to one of the four sites opened
in the water districts to facilitate the screening. The centers
open at 7 a.m., and every 15 minutes another resident starts the
interview and blood sampling process.
"We have every slot at every site filled every day,"
says Susan Arnold, one of two project managers for Brookmar, which
was hired to oversee the screening.
Those who complete the process leave with a $400 check, part
of the $70 million that DuPont agreed to spend on the screening.
Bradshaw, 24, admits the money was an incentive to participate.
She and her husband have been screened, but she hasn't decided
if their 4-year-old son will. Blood tests
aren't recommended for children below age 6.
"The test, I think, is so much more than what people realize,"
she says. "It's just a quick, easy and free way to find out
the levels of different things in your blood."
Each sample is tested for the presence of C8 and for organ function
and cancer markers. The tests are confidential and do not look
for HIV, drugs or sexually transmitted diseases.
Samples are sent daily to laboratories in Ohio and Pennsylvania,
and thousands of results have already come back. They'll be studied
further in the second phase of the project, expected to start
In the meantime, though, people with abnormal results are encouraged
to consult their physicians.
Arnold says some people have already benefited from the screening
by learning they had immediate health issues, such as high blood
sugar or a low red-cell count.
However, it may be four years before the analysis is complete,
says Kyle Steenland, an epidemiology professor at Emory University
and one of three science panel members who will study the results.
"The evidence about the health effects of C8 are limited.
There are some concerns about cancer and some concerns about reproductive
effects," he says. "There is some evidence it might
have some effect on heart disease as well."
Some answers will come quickly, he says, but others - about chronic
diseases, cancer and heart disease - will take longer.
If C8 is found to cause problems, DuPont could be required to
spend another $235 million to monitor residents' health over the
For now, 22-year-old Marietta College student Chris Hendricks
just wonders if contaminated drinking water contributed to his
father's heart attack several years ago.
"It would be nice to know if that was the reason."
ON THE NET
C8 Health Project: http://www.c8healthproject.org