Sustained Outrage

We’ve got the story online  here about the latest findings from the C8 Science Panel:

A three-person team of experts has found a “probable link” between exposure to the chemical C8 and the development of kidney and testicular cancer in humans, the scientific panel announced this morning.

Members of the C8 Science Panel made those conclusions in the second set of significant findings in their six-year study of the DuPont Co. chemical.

Panel members cited previous studies of DuPont workers, as well as the results of their own still-to-be-published analysis of health data for thousands of Mid-Ohio Valley residents.

In its press release, the Science Panel said:

The only two cancers where the Panel found a reasonably consistent and strong relationship between past exposure and cancer were testicular cancer and kidney cancer. Both these cancers are rare. In the Science Panel data there were 19 confirmed cases of testicular cancer and 113 confirmed cases of kidney cancer. After dividing the population into four categories (“quartiles”) of increasing level of cumulative C8 in the blood, the kidney cancer rate in the upper categories of the population was 20%, 40%, and 60% higher for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quartile compared to those with the lowest exposure. For testicular cancer the corresponding numbers were 80%, 120%, and 170% higher for the upper quartiles compared to the lowest.

You can read the panel’s latest findings here and here.

Readers who have followed these issues know that DuPont has for years included this standard disclaimer in its public statements about C8 issues:

There are no known human health effects associated with exposure to PFOA.

What does DuPont say now? Here’s the entire statement issued by the company today:

Today the Science Panel filed two “probable link” reports in connection with the West Virginia class action litigation. The Science Panel reports address type-II adult onset diabetes and cancer. The Science Panel found no probable link between PFOA and diabetes. The Science Panel found a probable link with two cancers (kidney and testicular), but found no probable link with the remaining nineteen categories of cancer evaluated.

The settlement defines the standard for “probable link” as whether it is more likely than not that PFOA exposure among class members is linked to a human disease. A probable link report does not mean that the Science Panel has concluded that PFOA exposure has caused or will cause any human disease among the class members as a whole, including the Washington Works employees, or any individual.

Consistent with our core values of health, safety and environmental stewardship and before any reports from the Science Panel, DuPont took actions to minimize PFOA exposure.

For decades, DuPont has had industrial hygiene measures in place to minimize worker exposures to PFOA. Data shows that these measures are effective. DuPont has reduced total PFOA emissions by more than 98 percent in our global manufacturing operations since 2000. We also have developed and commercialized new technologies to make fluoropolymers without using PFOA, and to make surface protection products that cannot break down to PFOA in the environment. Regulatory authorities around the world have affirmed that these products are safe for their intended uses.

DuPont will continue to meet its obligations under the West Virginia litigation. DuPont will evaluate additional information from the Science Panel as part of our long-standing commitment to the safety of our employees and customers and to responsible environmental and product stewardship.

The most interesting part is there in bold:

A probable link report does not mean that the Science Panel has concluded that PFOA exposure has caused or will cause any human disease among the class members as a whole, including the Washington Works employees, or any individual.

Lawyers for the residents disagreed. Here’s their statement:

Releasing its report this morning, a Dupont-approved independent science panel nixed Dupont’s protestations that PFOA is harmless.

The independent panel of scientists announced that the weight of available scientific evidence demonstrates that PFOA is linked to both kidney and testicular cancer in humans exposed to the toxic chemical. The panel conducted the most comprehensive, detailed studies to date. The studies reviewed human health effects related to exposure to ammonium perfluorooctanoate, also known as C-8 or PFOA.

PFOA historically has been used in making non-stick coatings (such as Teflon) and also in a variety of other consumer products, such as fast-food packaging and microwave popcorn bags. Today’s scientific findings, coupled with the scientific panel’s related findings in December, finally put to rest the long debate over whether PFOA is linked to any serious adverse health effects in humans. It is has now been confirmed that human exposure to PFOA is linked to one of the most serious of human diseases – cancer.

Today’s findings were announced by the “C-8 Science Panel” – a panel of three epidemiologists jointly selected by DuPont and residents of several communities in West Virginia and Ohio who settled a class action lawsuit against DuPont in 2005 arising from DuPont’s contamination of local drinking water supplies with PFOA. Under that class action settlement, DuPont and the residents formed the C-8 Science Panel. The panel was charged with independently and comprehensively evaluating all of the available scientific data relating to PFOA to determine whether it is more likely than not that PFOA exposure is linked to serious human disease. To qualify for membership on the Panel, the panelists had to be independent of either side to the lawsuit and well-qualified epidemiologists.

Since being first formed in 2005, the C-8 Science Panel has been evaluating data collected from approximately 70,000 class members exposed to PFOA in their drinking water and also all previously existing and developing scientific literature . The exposed residents provided PFOA blood samples and other health information to the Panel through the C-8 Health Project. That project was implemented by Brookmar, Inc., using approximately $70 million of the settlement funds provided for that purpose by DuPont under the class action settlement.

The Brookmar, Inc. C8 Health Project generated an unprecedented amount of community-level exposure and health data. That database provided the C-8 Science Panel with the unique opportunity to design and conduct approximately one dozen comprehensive studies of various health endpoints of interest and historical worker and residential exposure levels. To date, the C-8 Science Panel studies have cost in excess of $30 million, all of which has been paid by DuPont pursuant the terms of the settlement agreement which was ratified by the court.

The C-8 Science Panel is releasing its final findings on PFOA health effects through a series of final Probable Link Reports. Those reports are being released in three phases. In December 2011, the Panel released its first set of reports focusing on reproductive outcomes only. At that time, the Panel found a Probable Link between PFOA exposure and pregnancy-induced hypertension, including preeclampsia.

Today, the Panel released its second series of Probable Link Reports and found PFOA exposure to be also linked to kidney and testicular cancer. The Panel plans to release the remainder of its Probable Link Reports on the other health endpoints still under investigation (such as heart disease, thyroid disease, neurological problems in children, lipid disorders, etc.) by the end of July 2012.

With PFOA now linked to serious human disease, DuPont’s class action agreement requires it to pay up to an additional $235 million to fund a medical monitoring program. The program will help detect the onset of PFOA-linked diseases among the approximately 70-80,000 residents who are class members as defined in the settlement agreement. On April 12, the parties announced that they had jointly selected a C 8 Medical Panel. The members of the Medical Panel are Dr. Dean Baker, Dr. Melissa McDiarmid, and Dr. Harold Sox, The Medical Panel is charged with determining what type of medical monitoring program would be appropriate for the class members given the C-8 Science Panel’s Probable Link findings on disease.

Class members who already suffer from linked diseases are now permitted to pursue personal injury and/or wrongful death claims against DuPont relating to those specific diseases. With regard to personal injury claims on made by class members, DuPont’s class action settlement agreement provides that it will not dispute that PFOA can cause the specific diseases in humans which the independent science panel has linked to PFOA exposure (presently including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and pregnancy induced hypertension, including preeclampsia). Class counsel is presently reviewing potential individual claims on behalf of clients who qualify.

Today’s Probable Link findings insure that DuPont will continue to fund the state-of-the-art water treatment systems that were installed under the settlement to reduce PFOA levels in the impacted public and private drinking water supplies. DuPont already has paid more than $20 million under the settlement to cover the costs of PFOA water treatment systems for half a dozen impacted West Virginia and Ohio public water supplies since 2005. A number of private drinking water wells are also filtered. As a result of 2005 settlement, impacted local residents’ drinking water is presently filtered effectively for PFOA to minimize any on-going or future drinking water exposures.

In reaction to the C-8 Science Panel’s findings today, one of the attorneys representing the residents, Robert Bilott with the law firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister in Cincinnati, stated: “We thank the Panel for all of its hard work over the last several years, which has led to this final resolution of the issue of whether PFOA exposure is linked to any serious human disease. We are pleased that the community now has some definitive answers to their concerns about whether they have been put at risk for serious adverse health effects because of their exposure to PFOA in their drinking water. We look forward to receiving the Panel’s remaining Probable Link Reports on the other health endpoints that are still under consideration.”