OHIO VALLEY — In a final release of findings on Monday, the C8 Science Panel revealed a probable link between C8 exposure and high cholesterol in adults and children living in the Mid Ohio Valley.
The panel of three epidemiologists did not find a link between C8 exposure and Parkinson’s disease, non-malignant liver disease, non-malignant kidney disease or osteoarthritis. Despite the link to high cholesterol, the panel did not find a probable link involving coronary artery disease or high blood pressure.
The panel was appointed by the court as part of a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit filed by area residents against DuPont over the contamination of local water supplies with the manufacturing substance C8, also known as PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid. The man-made chemical compound has been used in the production of Teflon and other consumer applications at DuPont Washington Works near Parkersburg, West Virginia since the 1950s. In 2002, local water consumers discovered that C8 had made its way into wells and aquifers of Ohio communities including Belpre, Tuppers Plains, Little Hocking, and Pomeroy. The contamination was also found in public water supplies in Lubeck and Mason County, West Virginia.
Last December, the C8 Science Panel linked C8 exposure to pregnancy-induced hypertension. In April, the panel linked the man-made substance to kidney and testicular cancer. In July, the panel linked C8 to thyroid disease and ulcerated colitis. Monday’s finding linking exposure to high cholesterol completes the C8 Science Panel’s obligation to the court.
Consequently, a medical panel has been appointed to decide what monitoring or screening might be appropriate for members of the class in light of the findings. Also, class members who suffer from diseases linked to C8 are free to proceed with their own personal injury claims against DuPont. The class action settlement agreement indicates that DuPont may not dispute that C8 can cause the specific diseases which the C8 Science Panel has linked to exposure.
“Now the residents can be tested for the C8 linked diseases, and hopefully quick diagnosis and treatment will increase recovery rates,” said class counsel Rob Bilott. “As attorneys, we are proud that the truth has been uncovered. 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”
DuPont officials thanked the Science Panel for its hard work.
“Because of this work, DuPont will, with the advice of independent doctors, provide medical monitoring for eligible class members that will extend many years into the future. In addition, DuPont remains committed to its ongoing program of providing state of the art water filtering systems for area water systems to insure that C8 is filtered out of the drinking water,” said a statement provided by the corporation.
The three panelists are Dr. Kyle Steenland of Emory University in Georgia, Dr. David Savitz of Brown University in Rhode Island, and Dr. Tony Fletcher of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Steenland said high cholesterol impacts approximately 20 percent of the participants in the C8 Health Study whose blood serum and medical histories were collected as part of the class action settlement agreement. By following some of those participants over time, the Science Panel was able to observe a decrease in cholesterol levels as C8 exposure also diminished.
Steenland said while the panel’s legal role is over, he believes it is important to continue to follow this population for health outcomes in the future.
Reflecting on the study, Fletcher said the “participation rate was phenomenal” among community members. He said there are still some useful follow up studies that can be performed.
Savitz said the panelists may continue their work as individual investigators. In the meantime, they have made themselves available to the C8 Medical Panel in case their expertise is requested.