PARKERSBURG — A recent Wood County Circuit Court order seals information gathered during the C8 Health Project, but qualifying medical schools and other experts can petition the court for their own analysis and review.
DuPont paid for the massive health project as part of a settlement in a class action lawsuit filed by residents who alleged DuPont Washington Works discharge of C8 in water supplies affected their health. C8 is another name for ammonium perfluorooctanoate. DuPont has used the chemical since the 1950s at its Washington Works plant. C8 is a processing agent used to make Teflon and other nonstick products.
The information gathered in 2005-2006 as part of the largest-ever study of the chemical C8’s possible health effects was filed with the court Friday. The disks containing the medical information from a battery of blood tests and medical records gathered from nearly 70,000 residents of six area water districts, were ordered sealed from the public. But medical schools and other qualifying entities can petition the court for the information. The court-appointed science panel has already been provided with this information as part of the class action lawsuit settlement.
“The court order (signed Friday by Circuit Judge J.D. Beane) sets up a procedure to ensure the identity for the (health project) participants will not be compromised even after you remove the names of the participants. If the responses would be provided to an institution or an individual without getting certain assurances or certain procedures as described in the order, then it would be theoretically possible for someone to figure out the identities of test participants,” said Harry Deitzler, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys.
“The two things Brookmar and I represented to the court when Judge Hill approved the class action settlement, was the identities would not be revealed, and two that the data would go into the public domain. The idea was anybody could review the data, however, you have to make sure the identities are protected. To reach those goals, certain things have to be done. The raw data would not be understandable to someone untrained in science anyway. So, Paul Brooks and Art Maher (who coordinated the health project) made a decision to get the data into the public domain in a manner that individuals could understand by having West Virginia University tabulate and interrelate mathematically the variables. If you do the totals in mathematical comparisons, you have placed it in the public domain so the public can look at it and reach their own conclusions while still protecting the individuals involved with the project,” Deitzler said.
“We don’t know if the public does or does not have confidence in the science panel. We’d like to think they do because the panel was agreed on by both sides in the lawsuit, so we think they are eminently fair. But this way the public can be assured the entire scientific world will be looking over the panel’s shoulders so it’s not as though they won’t be reviewed. And, in whatever conclusions they reach, in fact, some institutions if they begin analyzing the data toxicologists, clinicians and others specializing in community disease, they might reach conclusions sooner and certainly there is no reason to think those conclusions would be any less reliable than the panel. The real advantage is having everyone able to analyze the data, and they may see things that epidemelogists, which the panelists all are, might not think of,” Deitzler said.
In his order, Judge Beane noted testimony from Dr. Paul Brooks, noting “his affirmation that the information from the C8 health project would benefit the class membership if placed in the public domain, but that the identification of the individual participants would never be released.”