C8 is another name for perfluorooctanoate acid, or PFOA. In West Virginia, DuPont has used C8 since the 1950s at Washington Works. C8 is a processing agent used to make Teflon and other nonstick products, oil-resistant paper packaging and stain-resistant textiles.
DuPont and other companies have reduced their emissions and agreed with the Bush administration on a voluntary phase-out of the chemical. But researchers remained concerned about a growing list of possible health effects and about the chemical's presence in consumer products, as well as continued pollution from waste disposal practices. The Obama administration has said it is considering setting the first regulatory limits on C8.
Studies released by the Science Panel over the last two years have found C8 exposure associated with high cholesterol, high levels of body chemicals linked to hypertension and cardiovascular disease, birth defects and high blood pressure.
In releasing its report on delayed puberty, the Science panel cautioned that other factors could be at work.
For one thing, growth changes associated with puberty could lead to changes in C8 blood levels, rather than the chemical itself having any effect on age at puberty. Or, other factors could be leading to both changes in the age of puberty and chemical uptake by the body. Other possible influences, including smoking, alcohol intake, obesity and family income -- which impacts a variety of health measures -- were examined and ruled out as the cause.
The Science Panel findings are somewhat similar to those of another study published last week in the peer-reviewed journal Environment International. While that study found no statistically significant puberty delays, it involved a sample of only 400 girls and the authors said a larger study -- like that of the Science Panel -- might find a link.
Another study presented last year at a scientific conference found a link between C8 and early puberty among girls, based on breast growth measurements.
Fletcher said experts on the issue tell him it's entirely possible that C8 could cause early changes in some signs of puberty and delayed changes in others.
Scientists worry that changes in puberty timing can have implications for disease later in life, affecting things like cancer risk and skeletal maturation. Puberty timing also has implications for teen behavior issues, social difficulties and even sexual abuse risks.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.