Sustained Outrage

New study details C8 in private water wells

DuPont Co.’s Washington Works Plant south of Parkersburg, W.Va.

There’s a new study out this week that describes the first detailed study of C8 pollution of private drinking water wells and the relationship between that contamination and the levels of C8 in blood of the residents who used those wells.

As Kellyn S. Betts describes in a news article in Environmental Health Perspectives:

The study, conducted in 2005 and 2006, included only people who obtained their drinking water from private wells. The results showed that each 1-µg/L increase of the compound in the participants’ water supply was associated with a 141.5-µg/L increase in people’s serum PFOA concentrations.

The participants lived around DuPont’s Washington Works facility in Parkersburg, West Virginia, where PFOA (also known as C8) is used in the manufacture of Teflon® nonstick polymers. PFOA has been shown to increase risk of cancer, reproductive problems, and liver damage in laboratory animals, although human health effects are less clear. Many of the water monitoring data used in this study were collected as part of an agreement between DuPont and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a human health risk assessment for PFOA.

The groundwater in the Parkersburg area had been contaminated by DuPont’s releases of PFOA into the nearby Ohio River. A second source of contamination was PFOA that was released into the atmosphere and deposited onto soils, which then leached into the groundwater.

Previous research in this study area linked drinking water supplied by six local water districts and consumption of home-grown vegetables to PFOA levels in participants’ serum [EHP 118(8):1100–1108; Steenland et al.]. The new study provides a quantitative estimate of the relationship between drinking water and serum PFOA levels based on exposure to a wider range of PFOA levels in drinking water from 62 wells. It also corroborates the earlier finding about consumption of home-grown vegetables.

The article also noted:

Many of the wells in the study had PFOA concentrations that exceeded the EPA’s 0.4-µg/L advisory level, although the median concentration in the well water samples was half that level. The concentrations of PFOA in participants’ serum ranged from 0.9 to 4,751 µg/L, with a median of 75.7 µg/L, approximately 20 times the average level in the U.S. general population.

The full study is available here.  It concludes:

Private drinking water wells in West Virginia and Ohio communities surrounding the DuPont Washington Works facility are contaminated with PFOA. Concentrations in private wells are, in some cases, much greater than those observed in area public water districts. For private well users, adjusted regressional analyses indicate that PFOA levels in drinking water are a significant predictor of PFOA levels in serum.