Liberty Goodwin, Director

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(Lighting the Way to Less Toxic Living)




Charleston Gazette, Charleston, West Virginia, February 22, 2007


New C8 study finds baby development problems. (C8 is used to make Teflon, other non-stick products, oil-resistant paper packaging and stain- and water-repellent textiles. C8 is another name for ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or PFOA)


By Ken Ward Jr.  Staff writer Charleston Gazette


        Newborn babies exposed to low levels of the chemical C8 have been found to have decreased birth weight and head circumference, according to preliminary results from Johns Hopkins University researchers.

        The findings, if confirmed, could represent a dramatic new piece of evidence - actual developmental effects in humans - about the potential dangers of C8 and similar chemicals.

        "We think it is significant," said Dr. Lynn Goldman, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

        "If this is confirmed, it is important," Goldman said during a phone interview. "It would say that there is a biological change that is going on."

Goldman is leading the study, with a team from Johns Hopkins and the federal Centers for Disease Control.

        Last week, Goldman presented the preliminary findings at a workshop of the Society of Toxicology, a professional organization of scholars and scientists.

The workshop was co-sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and by DuPont Co., which makes and uses C8 to make Teflon, other non-stick products, oil-resistant paper packaging and stain- and water-repellent textiles.

        C8 is another name for ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or PFOA. DuPont has used the chemical since the 1950s at its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg.

Researchers are finding that people around the world have C8 in their blood. The blood levels may be generally small, but it is unclear whether these amounts are dangerous.

Nonstick cookware may be one route of exposure to C8, but recent studies suggest that food packaging may be a much bigger source.

        DuPont has consistently maintained there are no human effects known to be caused by C8.

        In its most recent position paper on the subject, the company said, "Based on health and toxicological studies conducted by DuPont and other researchers, DuPont believes the weight of evidence indicates that PFOA does not pose a health risk to the general public."

        Through a company spokesman, DuPont science director Robert Rickard referred questions about the Johns Hopkins study to Goldman, noting that a final version had not yet been published and DuPont has "not had an opportunity to review the final results."    

        "During her presentation last week, Dr. Lynn Goldman acknowledged limitations on drawing conclusions from the study," Rickard said. "As presented, the study does not change our position on PFOA."

        Enesta Jones, an EPA spokeswoman, said that the agency is "absolutely" concerned about the Johns Hopkins findings and would consider the study as it finishes a broad risk assessment of C8.

        "It's data that we will incorporate into our ongoing research," Jones said.

In the Parkersburg area, DuPont is paying to install new water treatment systems to get C8 out of local drinking water supplies. The company is also funding a detailed study of C8 health effects by an independent, three-scientist panel.

        Goldman said that there are still unknowns, such as exactly how the babies were exposed to C8 and whether other factors may have also contributed to the developmental effects.

        "We don't have all the answers yet," Goldman said. "We're still working on it."

Previous results of the Johns Hopkins study, announced in February 2006, found C8 in umbilical cord blood samples from 298 of 300 babies tested.

        Goldman said that new tests found "very small decreases" in both birth weight and head circumference associated with C8 exposure. The amounts were "fairly low," she said, with the highest found being 7 parts per billion. That compares to the 5 parts per billion that EPA has said it believes average Americans have in their blood.

        Overall, the C8 levels in the babies tested were "at concentrations lower than typically reported in adult [blood] collected from other regions of the United States," according to an abstract of Goldman's presentation last week.

        Previous animal studies have shown that C8 can travel across the placental barrier. In animal studies, effects including birth defects, developmental delays and neonatal death have been observed.

        C8 has also been linked to cancer in animal studies, and an EPA science panel recommended that the agency classify C8 as "likely" to cause cancer in humans.

        Last week, the state of New Jersey moved to adopt a limit of 0.4 parts per billion of C8 in drinking water.

        West Virginia continues to use a water "screening level" adopted five years ago of 150 parts per billion of C8.


To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.