A community group is working to educate residents of the Little Hocking Water Association Service District about a study that could provide answers about the health effects of the chemical known as C8.
The first newsletter about the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences study will be mailed by early next week to the 1,200 western Washington County residents in the district. Later in the process, about 400 people will be asked to participate in the study by providing samples of blood and/or breast milk.
An advisory committee made up of representatives from the affected townships has also been formed so residents have a contact person when they have questions.
“We want to keep the community involved,” said Decatur Community Association Trustee Dave Freeman. “We want everyone to know what’s going on.”
The four-year study is being funded by an $840,000 grant from the Environmental Justice Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences through the collaboration of the Decatur Community Association, environmental health researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Occupational Medicine Program of the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital.
Samples should begin to be collected by mid-2004, said Freeman.
The 400 people chosen will be random, but must have lived in the area for at least four years.
Concern about C8 in the area has been high since a 2001 class-action suit filed in West Virginia alleged DuPont knowingly allowed a chemical with the trade name of C8, a component used during the production of Teflon, to be discharged into local water supplies at unsafe levels, causing adverse effects on residents’ health.
DuPont says there is no evidence C8 poses a threat to humans.
In addition to water supplies, residents may also be exposed to C8 through the air, said Freeman.
“There are studies being done now to determine where the highest levels, medium levels and lowest levels of C8 in the air are in this area,” he said. “We want to randomly sample within those various regions.”
Volunteers aren’t needed for the study; instead, a letter of invitation will be sent out to selected households.
“If we took volunteers, we would run the risk of biasing our sample,” said Freeman.
Individual results of the testing will be provided to each participant and kept confidential.
Little Hocking resident Stu Layman, 61, said he would be willing to take part in the study if selected.
“I think everyone has been worried about this for some time now,” Layman said. “We don’t know if this stuff is hurting us, and we need to find out. I think any of us would be willing to help.”
The study will help determine how C8 is getting to residents, the levels in the exposed population and if there are possible adverse health effects.
If there are, the next step would be to find ways to reduce exposure, said Freeman.
“Part of the follow-up will be what can be put in place as far as prevention,” he said.
Community advisory committee
John Smith – Belpre Township.
Robert Layfield – Decatur Township.
Larry Miskimins – Fairfield Township.
Gregory Nicholson – Palmer Township.
Donald Rauch – Watertown Township.
Molly Varner – Wesley Township.
Sidney Brackenridge – Warren Local Schools.
Kathleen Meckstroth – Washington County Health Department.
Steve Williams – Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Mary Dominniak – U.S. EPA.