CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new West Virginia University study has found that exposure to the chemical C8 appears to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Researchers from WVU's School of Public Health compared the levels of C8 in blood samples from a national database with the presence of cardiovascular disease, or CVD, and peripheral arterial disease, or ARD, which is a marker of arteriosclerosis.
They found that individuals with higher levels of the chemical in their blood were more likely to have both diseases, according to their study, published online this week by the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
The findings are particularly important, researchers said, because higher risk of disease was associated with levels of C8 in the blood that are related to lower levels in the general U.S. population, and not exclusively to chemical plant workers or residents living near a plant that used C8. The increased risk of disease appeared to be independent of other variances, such as age, smoking status, body mass index, and cholesterol level, the researchers said.
"Cardiovascular disease is a major public health problem," said the study, written by Dr. Anoop Shankar and other WVU researchers. "Identifying novel risk factors for CVD, including widely prevalent environmental exposures, is therefore important."
C8 is another name for perfluorooctanoate acid, or PFOA. In West Virginia, DuPont has used C8 since the 1950s as a processing agent 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 on a voluntary phase-out of the chemical, but researchers are still 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.
Janet Smith, a DuPont spokeswoman, said her company and others in the industry "have made strong progress" toward meeting their voluntary emissions reductions and that federal data indicates the level of C8 in the general U.S. population's blood is falling.