C-8-Type Chemicals Found In Humans
Compounds seen in people worldwideAug 1, 2004 | The News Journal People around the world are carrying in their blood traces of chemicals associated with stain-resistant and nonstick coatings and similar goods, according to a newly published report.
Bloodstream levels of the compounds, a type of perfluorochemical, are higher where the consumer products are common, the report said. The compounds include a chemical used by the DuPont Co. for Teflon production and other activities, including some at its Chambers Works plant at the foot of the Delaware Memorial Bridge in Deepwater, N.J.
Eleven researchers from 10 nations collaborated on the examination of perfluoronated compounds in human bloodstreams, published on the Internet by Environmental Science & Technology in advance of regular print publication. A division of the American Chemical Society, a national professional and scientific organization, publishes the bimonthly magazine.
The study analyzed blood from 473 samples from city and suburban residents on four continents. Levels of the most common compounds proved highest in the United States and Poland, and lowest in India.
"Prolonged use of perfluorochemicals for a wide variety of applications, such as paper and packing products, residential and mill-applied carpet and spraying, stain resistant textiles and cleaners, may be a major source of human exposure to these compounds," the study said.
The findings added to a growing number of studies and calls for more research regarding perfluoronated chemicals, a group that in general features carbon atoms strongly bonded to fluorine atoms in ways that are highly resistant to breakdown. Attention in recent years has turned from their durability to their potential toxicity, long-term health effects and tendency to linger in the environment and accumulate in living tissue.
Earlier research had reported the same chemicals can be found in the bloodstreams of virtually all U.S. citizens. Some of the compounds are the same or similar to those used to make DuPont's Teflon and other mass-market consumer goods and coatings - including fast-food packaging - and are under Environmental Protection Agency scrutiny for potential health risks.
"This just shows that it's not just a domestic concern, but a global problem," said Timothy J. Kropp, a senior scientist with Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit group that has called for a ban on perfluoronated compounds.
DuPont referred questions on the study to the Society of the Plastics Industry, an umbrella group. John Heinze, a researcher and science and communications consultant who works with the plastics group, said the compounds have not been proven harmful at the levels found in the bloodstream study.
R. Clifton Webb, a DuPont spokesman, said the company has voluntarily reduced emissions of perfluoronated compounds by 98 percent over the past five years. Sites affected by the reduction include the company's Chambers Works industrial wastewater plant.
Webb said the company expects its releases of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, to the Delaware River will fall to 3,700 pounds by the end of the year. A document filed with New Jersey regulators last year indicated that the company was releasing PFOA, also called C-8 by DuPont, at roughly a 12,000 pound annual rate that year.
Another company, 3M, phased out use of perfluorooctyl sulfonates, or PFOS, in making stain repellents and other products after the EPA said that the compounds persist in the environment, build up in living tissues and pose long-term health threats, including possible cancer risks.
EPA officials this month accused DuPont of failing to provide prompt health-related information to regulators about potential risks and releases involving C-8 at the company's West Virginia plant.
The action, which could cost DuPont millions of dollars in penalties, came weeks after the EPA announced a plan to conduct its own study of some of the chemicals and their fate in the environment after months of effort to agree on voluntary industry-financed research.
DuPont Co. last week reported setting aside $45 million to cover potential costs from a class action lawsuit for releasing C-8 from its West Virginia Teflon works. The company is accused of contaminating the drinking water supplies of 30,000 people in the Ohio River Valley. Company officials have agreed to supply alternate drinking water supplies if contamination levels creep too high.
A separate report the company provided to Delaware regulators said the Chambers Works operation is "not a significant source" of PFOA, or C-8, in the environment.
The international research project found levels of PFOA were highest among Korean women. The same chemical was found in 100 percent of blood tested from Kentucky, New York City, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Poland and Belgium.
PFOS was found at even higher levels. Other studies have found the same compounds in wildlife around the world.