PFOA 2005
November 6, 2005. Thousands sign up for C8 health screening.
By Brian Farkas. The Beacon Journal (Ohio).

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November 6, 2005

The Beacon Jounal (Ohio)

Thousands sign up for C8 health screening

Associated Press

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 good."

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 supplies.

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 part.

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 next year.

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 long term.

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."

C8 Health Project:

Fluoride Action Network | Pesticide Project | 315-379-9200 |