FLUORIDE ACTION NETWORK PESTICIDE PROJECT
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PFOA is perfluorooctanoic acid and is sometimes called C8.
It is a man-made chemical and does not occur naturally in the environment.
The "PFOA" acronym is used to indicate not only perfluorooctanoic
acid itself, but also its principal salts.
The DuPont site where APFO is used as a reaction aid is the Washington Works (Route 892, Washington, West Virginia 26181) located along the Ohio River approximately seven miles southwest of Parkersburg, West Virginia.
The Little Hocking Water Association well field is located in Ohio on the north side of the Ohio River immediately across from the Washington Works facility. Consumers of this drinking water have brought a Class Action suit against the Association and DuPont for the contamination of their drinking water with DuPont's APFO, which residents and media refer to as C8.
PFOA is used as a processing aid in the manufacture of fluoropolymers to produce hundreds of items such as non-stick surfaces on cookware (TEFLON), protective finishes on carpets (SCOTCHGUARD, STAINMASTER), clothing (GORE-TEX), and the weather-resistant barrier sheeting used on homes under the exterior siding (TYVEK).
March 28, 2003
The Columbus Dispatch
DuPont Chemical May Harm Females
Health risks might be higher than acceptable, EPA says in assessment
By Michael Hawthorne
A chemical that DuPont has used for more than 50 years to make Teflon might cause developmental and reproductive problems in young girls and women of childbearing age, according to a draft risk assessment prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Alarmed by studies indicating that the unregulated chemical can be found at low levels in human blood, agency officials are taking steps that could lead to the first government controls of ammonium perfluorooctanoate, known within DuPont as C8.
The risk assessment prepared by the EPA, dated March 17, estimates that health risks to young girls and women of childbearing age are higher than levels considered acceptable by the agency. The report did not address other C8-related health problems suggested by animal studies, such as cancer and liver damage.
EPA officials based their conclusions on studies conducted last year that identified levels of C8 in human blood and another study that showed that the chemical causes a variety of health problems in rats.
Agency officials refused to discuss the risk assessment yesterday. The Dispatch obtained a copy of the document from the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization that has been urging the government to curb the spread of C8 in the environment.
"The more we learn about C8, the worse it looks," said Richard Wiles, the organization's senior vice president. DuPont released a statement reiterating that C8 "has been used safely for more than 50 years with no known adverse effects to human health or the environment."
The company said more recent data "will demonstrate that there is a significantly higher margin of safety than reported in EPA's internal deliberative draft."
In the draft assessment, the EPA relied upon a scientific formula known as "margin of exposure," which considered the dose of C8 administered to test rats and blood levels detected in humans.
The report estimated that women of childbearing age and girls ages 2 to 12 have an average margin of exposure of 66. Any number below 100 is considered by the EPA to indicate an unacceptable risk.
Men and boys were estimated to have an average margin of exposure of 9,125, according to the report.
DuPont uses C8 at its Washington Works plant, west of Parkersburg, W.Va., to keep Teflon and related coatings from clumping as they are manufactured. The company has studied at least 40 alternatives, all of which were abandoned because they either didn't meet the same standards or, like C8, were found to accumulate in human blood.
The Dispatch reported last month that DuPont has known since the early 1980s that C8 has contaminated public drinking water in surrounding communities on both sides of the Ohio River. But Ohioans didn't know until last year that they were being exposed to the chemical through water and air.
The highest levels detected to date are on the Ohio side in wells owned by the Little Hocking Water Association, which supplies 12,000 customers in Athens and Washington counties.
Research dating from the 1970s by DuPont and 3M, once the chief supplier of the chemical, shows that C8 builds up in human blood, doesn't break down in the environment and might cause serious health problems.
EPA officials initially were concerned about a related chemical that 3M used in Scotchgard coatings. Under pressure from the agency, 3M announced in May 2000 that it would stop making all perfluorochemicals; DuPont now makes C8 in Fayetteville, N.C.
Although DuPont says that C8's potential effects on human health have been widely studied, the EPA's draft risk assessment said few such studies have been conducted. Existing studies focused on the largely male work force at plants that manufacture or use the chemical, according to the report, and none of the research addressed "developmental outcomes."
In a prepared statement released yesterday, the EPA said it soon will announce an aggressive effort to learn more about C8.
"There remains considerable uncertainty regarding potential risks," the agency said.