CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Everyday consumer products such as stain repellants and paper coatings may be a “significant source” of the toxic chemical C8, according to a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study.
Chemicals used in these consumer products could degrade, releasing C8 and related toxic substances, much faster than previously projected by DuPont Co. scientists, according to the new EPA study.
The EPA study estimated the breakdown rate of these “fluoro-telomer polymers” to be 100 times faster than projected by the DuPont scientists in a study last year.
Both papers were published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, and are part of the growing scientific research into C8 and other perfluorochemicals, or PFCs.
Around the world, scientists are closely examining C8 and other PFCs. A mounting body of evidence shows that these chemicals are linked to a variety of adverse health effects, including immune changes and birth defects.
In West Virginia, concern about C8 has focused on DuPont’s plant near Parkersburg, which used the chemical for decades to make Teflon and other non-stick and stain-resistant products. C8 is also known as perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. Residents in the Parkersburg area have very high levels of C8 in their blood, linked to drinking polluted water and breathing contaminated air, scientists say.
But humans and animals around the world have been found to have C8 in their bodies, and scientists have been focused on trying to pinpoint how the chemical ends up in the blood of average humans who don’t live near a manufacturing plant that makes or uses the material.
Previous research by Tim Begley of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that chemicals used to make food wrappers grease-proof could migrate into some foods. And earlier this year, a University of Toronto study found the chemicals used to make food wrapper coatings in human blood.
DuPont has argued that consumer products made from C8 and related chemicals are safe. Company officials point to their scientists’ study projecting the half-life — the amount of time it takes for half of the chemical to break down — at between 1,200 and 1,700 years.
But EPA scientist John Washington and his colleagues used a different laboratory method to try to estimate the half-life and came up with an estimate of 10 to 17 years.
Washington said Thursday the EPA researchers used a more accurate, multi-step extraction method of estimating the degradation rate. The laboratory study incubated fluorotelomer polymers in soil microorganisms, and then monitored those microorganisms for PFCs and degraded polymers. In one instance, C8 was found to have a half-life of 130 days.
“These results suggest that fluorotelomer polymer degradation is a significant source of POFA and other fluorinated compounds to the environment,” the new study concluded.