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.
In April, lawyers for residents and DuPont announced the formation of a separate, three-person panel of medical experts who will design the appropriate medical monitoring program for residents.
The work of the panels is part of the 2005 settlement of a lawsuit filed against DuPont by Mid-Ohio Valley residents whose drinking water was contaminated with C8 by DuPont's nearby Washington Works plant.
Along with creation of the Science Panel and provisions for medical monitoring, the settlement allowed personal injury suits by residents who believe C8 exposure caused them to contract one of the illnesses identified by the Science Panel as probably linked to the chemical.
"We can't undo the damage that the pollution caused, but fortunately the lawsuit forced DuPont to get the poison out of the water pending final results from the panel," said Rob Bilott, another lawyer for the residents. "Now the residents can be tested for the C8 linked diseases, and hopefully quick diagnosis and treatment will increase recovery rates. Our next step will be to seek fair compensation for those who have been harmed because of DuPont's contamination of their drinking water with PFOA."
The term "probable link" isn't a standard one for scientists who study toxic chemical exposure. It's defined in the DuPont legal settlement as whether "based upon the weight of the available scientific evidence, it is more likely than not that there is a link between exposure to C8 and a particular human disease" among Mid-Ohio Valley residents taking part in the suit.
The finding that links C8 exposure to cholesterol was not a surprise. Several peer-reviewed scientific studies have found similar links, and a report that found higher cholesterol among Mid-Ohio Valley residents with greater C8 exposure was among the first papers made public by the Science Panel four years ago.
Science panel members conducted their own additional studies, which were able to better examine whether high cholesterol in residents occurred before or after C8 exposure, a missing factor and weakness of previous research.
Other new reports released Monday said the panel found no "probable link" between C8 exposure and high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, Parkinson's Disease, chronic kidney disease, liver disease and osteoarthritis.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.