CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal government health advisories for drinking water contaminated with C8 may be far too weak, according to a new Harvard University study that attempts to set new recommended exposure guidance for the toxic chemical.
The study examined immune suppression in exposed children and found potential reactions from C8 at levels far below those used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set its health advisories.
"When converted to approximate exposure limits for drinking water, current limits appear to be several hundred fold too high," said the study, authored by Harvard adjunct professor Dr. Philippe Grandjean and published April 19 in the journal Environmental Health.
The study concluded that EPA's numbers "need to be reconsidered in light of the observed immunotoxicity associated with" chemical exposure.
Dr. Alan Ducatman, a West Virginia University researcher who has studied C8, said the new paper has several limitations, including its focus on a small sample of children.
Grandjean examined C8 impacts on kids in the Faeroe Islands, a fishing community in the Norwegian Sea. The area's marine food diet is associated with intake of C8 and other perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, and the government-run health-care system there provides a wealth of detailed data making such studies easier to conduct.
But Ducatman also said the new paper adds to previous research that drew similar conclusions about the potential problems with the EPA's C8 advisories.
"This exposure model adds formality to possible implications for water regulations," Ducatman said last week.
C8 is another name for perfluorooctanoate acid, or PFOA. In West Virginia, DuPont has used C8 since the 1950s at its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg as a processing agent to make Teflon and other nonstick products, oil-resistant paper packaging and stain-resistant textiles.