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DuPont Study Finds High C8 Levels in Blood of Parkesburg, W.Va., Residents

A DuPont Co. study found high levels of the toxic chemical C8 in the blood of residents near its Parkersburg plant, according to documents provided to federal regulators.

Nov. 18—A DuPont Co. study found high levels of the toxic chemical C8 in the blood of residents near its Parkersburg plant, according to documents provided to federal regulators.

DuPont tested the blood of a dozen residents who were named plaintiffs in a class-action suit against the company over C8 pollution.

The tests found that the residents had an average concentration of 67.5 parts per billion of C8.

That's between 12 and 20 times greater than the concentrations in the general U.S. population that led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to launch a "priority review" of C8's dangers.

They are, however, much lower than the concentrations that had been predicted by a DuPont computer model to be in the blood of Wood County residents.

Results of the DuPont blood tests were provided to the EPA on Sept. 15 — less than one week after lawyers for both sides announced a $107.6 million settlement in the C8 case against DuPont.

Rob Bilott, a lawyer for the residents, had apparently obtained the results as part of discovery in the case, and sent them to the EPA.

The results were contained in a 10-page July 2004 report from a DuPont contractor, Exygen, that was buried among thousands of pages of documents on file as part of the EPA's review of C8.

On Wednesday, the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group posted the report on its Web site, www.ewg.org.

The organization also wrote to the EPA to complain that DuPont never disclosed the study results to federal regulators.

C8 is another name for perfluorooctanoate, and is also known as perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

At its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg, DuPont has used C8 for more than 50 years in the production of Teflon. The popular product is best known for its use on nonstick cookware, but it is also used in everything from waterproof clothing to stain-repellent carpet and ball-bearing lubricants.

For years, C8 — and DuPont's emissions of it — have been basically unregulated. But in the past few years, C8 has come under increasing scrutiny.

In September 2002, the EPA launched its review of C8 and related chemicals, in response to studies that linked them to developmental and reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer. The EPA has repeatedly delayed the release of the results of that review.

Now, DuPont is fighting a lawsuit, filed by the EPA in June, that alleges the chemical giant for more than 20 years concealed information about the health hazards of C8.

The EPA could impose more than $300 million in fines. An initial hearing in the case is scheduled for mid-December.

"Once again, Teflon maker DuPont has ignored its most basic legal responsibilities to the American public," said Richard Wiles, senior vice president at the Environmental Working Group.

In a prepared statement, DuPont lawyer Stacey Mobley called the group's statements "irresponsible and alarmist."

Mobley said that the levels in the blood study were below what DuPont has found in worker studies "where we have not observed any adverse health effects."

In its letter to the EPA, the Environmental Working Group noted that a draft federal report in 2003 "documented Teflon chemical levels among female children and adult women as falling far outside of standard agency safety margins."

The new DuPont study, the organization said, shows that C8 concentrations in DuPont plant neighbors are even worse.

"How could the company have thought that this was not of immediate relevance to your agency's decision making, and that it was not legally required to give you the study results," the working group said in its letter to the EPA.

The broader public release of the DuPont study comes at an awkward time for lawyers for the residents and the company.

On Tuesday, Wood Circuit Judge George Hill has scheduled a hearing to discuss the proposed class-action settlement.

Under that deal, DuPont would pay $107.6 million, including $22.6 million to cover legal fees and costs for the residents.

DuPont would provide, at a cost of about $10 million, six local water plants with new equipment to reduce the amount of C8 in their water supplies.

The company would pay $5 million for a study of potential health effects of exposure to C8.

Depending on the outcome of that study, DuPont could also end up on the hook for $235 million for future medical monitoring for 50,000 or more neighbors of the Washington Works plant.

But as of Wednesday, a formal settlement document had not yet been filed in Wood Circuit Court.

Before it can take effect, the settlement is subject to a public comment hearing and must be approved by the judge.

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© 2004, The Charleston Gazette, W.Va. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.