No, not V-8 the vegetable drink, but C8, the common name for ammonium perfluorooctanoate, an ingredient in Teflon and other non-stick products. Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette reports today on the levels of perfluorooctanoic acid in the blood of about 69,000 residents living near the DuPont Co.’s Parkersburg, WV plant where C8 was manufactured. The results are posted on the West Virginia University’s Health Science’s center website. The median C8 blood-level was
“more than five times the U.S. general population.”
The highest median blood-concentration levels (i.e., 132 ppb) were found among residents who get their tap water from the Little Hocking Water Association in Ohio. Ward’s story indicates the median level in the general U.S. population is 5 ppb.
As a case study by SKAPP’s Dick Clapp and Polly Hoppin about perfluorooctanoic acid outlines, the study of residents’ environmental exposure to C8 is funded as part of the settlement of a class-action lawsuit originally filed in 2001. The case study, and documents referenced in it, describe DuPont’s efforts to sequester relevant scientific information about the known and potential health risks to animals and humans from exposure to C8. It includes a descriptions of previously sealed DuPont documents about the contamination of drinking water sources in the locality of the plant.
“One of the documents was a November 2000 communication from DuPont attorney John R. Bowman, prepared after the water district responsible for supplying water to one of the affected areas (Lubeck, in Mason County, WV) sent a letter to its customers notifying them C8 had been found in their drinking water (the letter stated that DuPont found “low concentrations” of C8 in drinking water in two wells). The memo from attorney Bowman states: ‘In view of the interest the letter is getting I think we need to make more of an effort to get the business to look into what we can do to get the Lubeck community a clean source of water or filter the C8 out of the water.’
“In the memo, Bowman also states, ‘Our story is not a good one, we continued to increase our emissions into the river in spite of internal commitments to reduce or eliminate the release of this chemical into the community and the environment because of our concern about the biopersistence of this chemical.’”
With the release of the resident’s blood sample results, we have a better idea how those releases of C8 contaminated the residents, and can compare these levels to those found in individuals who do not live near a Teflon-manufacturing plant. As the WVU’s center’s website notes:
“Few, if any, previous human studies of PFCs of this magnitude have been conducted. And, while this is clearly a unique population, little is known about what level is considered to be ‘acceptable’ or ‘dangerous.’”
What we know now is that tens of thousands of people living near the plant have C8 accumulated in their bodies. Determining whether these exposures and concentrations are associated with adverse health effects is the purpose of the C8 Health Project which is ongoing.