It’s toxic and it’s most likely to be found in dangerous amounts near industrial, military, or firefighting training sites.
PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) or C8 is a manmade solvent which was used in the manufacture of Teflon and hundreds of industrial applications for more than sixty years at DuPont Washington Works near Parkersburg, West Virginia and many other locations around the country.
The chemical made its way into the public’s awareness after it was detected in the water supplies of tens of thousands of people living in the Mid-Ohio Valley. The detection prompted investigation and a class action lawsuit, which resulted in the legally binding conclusion that C8 exposure could be linked to six human health conditions: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pre-eclampsia and medically diagnosed high cholesterol.
Results of C8 Study
A recent study out of Harvard reveals that C8 contamination extends far beyond the Mid-Ohio Valley. C8 contamination has been found to impact the drinking water supplies of more than 6 million people in the United States in amounts exceeding the current US EPA lifetime health advisory of 0.07 parts per billion. The risk is directly related to where you live. Contamination is more likely for those who live near industrial sites, military fire training areas, or wastewater treatment plants.
The Harvard study analyzed data provided by US EPA and collected from water utilities during the years 2013 to 2015. This sampling was taken from 4,000 public water supplies serving more than 10,000 people and 800 public water supplies serving less than 10,000 people. This represents only a very small fraction of smaller water supplies – or those serving less than 10,000 people. Further testing would be required in order to more fully map out C8 contamination across the United States. Harvard scientists are recommending additional sampling as well as lower thresholds for water utility reporting.
“Drinking water from 13 states accounted for 75 percent of the detections, including, by order of frequency of detection, California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts and Illinois,” according to study results. PFOA or C8 is the most commonly detected perfluorochemical in the family of chemicals.
The health concerns of scientists and environmentalists are complicated by the fact that not only is the family of chemicals represented by C8 carcinogenic and ubiquitous; they are extremely resistant to degradation (or decay) and may remain in the environment for a thousand years.
Health Risks From C8 Contamination
C8 also stays in the human body for a long period of time where it provokes chemical changes in some individuals. People who live in communities with contaminated water supplies tend to have more C8 in their blood and body – and therefore a greater risk of developing related diseases.
Drinking water contamination “poses risks to the developmental, immune, metabolic and endocrine health of consumers,” confirm the study authors, including Xindi Hu and Phillip Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health, Andrew Lindstorm of US EPA, Dr. Arlene Blum of the Green Science Policy Institute, the Environmental Working Group, and the Silent Spring Institute.
Yet, C8 is in the blood of nearly everyone – 97 percent of the population according to the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This prolific contamination is not because C8 exists in the environment naturally (it doesn’t), but solely because of widespread industrial use.
“The number of industrial sites that manufacture or use these compounds, the number of military fire training areas, and the number of wastewater treatment plants are all significant predictors (of C8 contamination),” the study determined.
Sadly, communities are still finding out one-by-one that their water supplies have been tainted by C8 – the Teflon toxin.
In the midst of their 2014-2015 water crisis, residents of Flint, Michigan unpleasantly discovered they were not only facing high levels of lead exposure but also C8 contamination. Since that time, communities in New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire have become aware that C8 is also present in their drinking water. Just this week, another community in Pennsylvania was added to the list of exposed places.
Options For People
Fortunately, water consumers in the Mid-Ohio Valley have options thanks to the Leach et al class action lawsuit against DuPont over contamination at Washington Works near Parkersburg, West Virginia. DuPont settled the suit in 2004 making provisions for water filtration, medical monitoring, and potential personal injury claims if the controversial substance could be scientifically linked to human disease. C8 was in fact linked to six human health conditions by a panel of three world renowned epidemiologists. As a result, people who live or work in Southeast Ohio and Wood and Mason County, West Virginia may qualify for certain rights and privileges as members of the class.
The class subject to these privileges includes people who lived or worked in one of the following water districts and drank the water for at least one year prior to 2004. If these conditions apply to you, you are already a member of one of the largest class action lawsuits on record. The Ohio public water supplies included in the settlement agreement are: Little Hocking Water Association, City of Belpre, Pomeroy, and Tuppers Plains/Chester. In West Virginia, the public water supplies included in the class are Lubeck and Mason County. This class does not include residents of Parkersburg or Vienna, West Virginia (unless they have also lived in the geographically-defined class) even though C8 has subsequently been detected in both water supplies.
People who are members of the class may already be benefiting from filtration treatment systems that were installed by DuPont in the six impacted water systems. Class members are entitled to certain medical screenings and a consultation with the physician of their choice as a condition of the settlement agreement. The medical screenings were developed in response to the scientific findings of the six related human health conditions. Class members are also entitled to a simple blood test to measure their C8 exposure. By virtue of the class action settlement agreement, DuPont has set aside $235 million to fund medical monitoring for members of the class. Medical monitoring is a benefit for class members whether they have participated in any prior C8 health study or not. Additionally, pregnant class members are entitled to a home-use blood pressure monitoring device to be paid for through the medical monitoring program.
Those class members who are suffering from kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, pre-eclampsia or ulcerative colitis have the right to pursue a personal injury claim against DuPont. It is important to note that this will not happen automatically as in some class action suits. Individuals who wish to file a claim must hire an attorney and pursue this option of their own volition. Only individuals who file personal injury claims will be eligible for any future settlement regarding their C8 exposure-related illness.
Decisions From C8 Lawsuits
Last October, a Columbus, Ohio jury awarded a kidney cancer victim $1.6 million finding DuPont responsible for poisoning the woman. This year, a jury awarded $5.1 million to a college professor who suffered from testicular cancer related to C8 exposure. In that case, the jury tacked on punitive damages over DuPont’s decades’ long cover-up of the water pollution. More than 3,500 cases have been filed against DuPont over illnesses related to C8 exposure and the bellwether cases are slowly making their way through the federal court system.
Simply put people who have lived or worked in the Mid-Ohio Valley for at least a year prior to 2004 – and who drank the water and developed one of six human health conditions – may be eligible to pursue personal injury claims. General causation has already been proven. It is not too late to find representation. However, the window of opportunity will not be open forever. There is a statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim. Unfortunately, people who live near DuPont Washington Works continue to be diagnosed with C8-related diseases every day. Unlike those who live elsewhere, members of this special class have a ready remedy.
What You Can Do
If you or a loved one are among the thousands of individuals in the Mid-Ohio Valley who have been poisoned and sickened by this manmade chemical, please contact Slater & Zurz LLP for a free and confidential consultation by calling 1-888-534-4850, chatting with one of the 24-hour live chat representatives or send a website message.
Information is power. Be sure to get the answers you need from a source you can trust.
The above article was written by Callie Lyons, an investigative journalist living in the Mid-Ohio Valley who has been following this story for many years.