PARKERSBURG—Reaction has been swift to preliminary data released by West Virginia University that says C8, used by DuPont Washington Works in the manufacture of Teflon and the subject of a class action lawsuit here, may cause weakening of the immune system, liver damage, thyroid problems and higher cholesterol in children.
DuPont Washington Works’ discharge of C8 into area water supplies resulted in a suit alleging the unregulated chemical caused health problems. As part of the suit’s settlement, those who consumed water in six districts were offered voluntary blood tests for C8 as well as a battery of other tests and health studies. Nearly 70,000 participated. In addition, a three-member science panel, agreed upon by the plaintiffs and DuPont, is investigating whether there is a “probable link” between C8 and human health.
The science panel has not released any findings yet.
The WVU School of Medicine has undertaken its own review of the C8 health studies of area residents. University officials emphasized the findings they released are only preliminary and more study is under way.
Dan Turner, spokesman for DuPont, said Friday, “The information that has been released by WVU is very preliminary and you cannot draw conclusions from it.”
According to the WVU report, its studies indicate higher levels of PFOA (also known as C8) in people correlate with lower levels of a protein that helps the body fight bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. The report says higher PFOA levels are associated with higher levels of two enzymes that can indicate liver damage and with lower levels of a liver protein that is an important part of the body’s defense against infection.
Elevated PFOA levels in children are also associated with high cholesterol, predisposing children to future weight problems and accompanying risk of heart disease, according to the WVU report. The report also notes thyroid function was clearly affected in PFOA-exposed people, with the effect strongest at moderate levels of exposure, rather than the highest exposures.
According to a press release issued Friday from Dr. Kyle Steenland, C8 science panel member, the information released by WVU “includes some simple tables and graphs relating C8 to several blood tests. These do not represent a thorough data analysis.
“Therefore, the C8 Science Panel does not believe they provide valid information regarding the presence or absence of association between C8 exposure and health outcomes,” he said.
The science panel plans to analyze the data on which the reports are based in greater detail, Steenland said. The initial impressions may change when the information is evaluated in a more systematic fashion, he said.
“The data from the C8 Health Project by itself is insufficient, even when completely analyzed, to draw any firm conclusions about whether C8 is linked to disease,” Steeland said.
When complete, the science panel reports will be filed with the court, published in academic journals and shared directly with the interested public. Their first analysis of the C8 Health Project data will be made public later this year.