Sustained Outrage

Judge: C8 Science Panel delay ‘frustrating’

Earlier today, Wood Circuit Judge J.D. Beane held a brief hearing in Parkersburg, so that members of the C8 Science Panel would have to explain in a public forum the reasons for their announced three-month delay (see here and here)  in releasing final results of their examination of the chemical’s impact on the health of Mid-Ohio Valley residents.

Until late last month, Science Panel members were publicly sticking to their promise that the last of their “probable link” determinations would be done and released by the end of July. Now, they say it will be the end of October before this work is completed and results relayed to area residents. Here’s the reason, as explained by the Science Panel:

The primary reason that we were not able to fulfill our commitment to meet the deadline of July for all the assessments was that we underestimated the painstaking process of resolving several assessments that are very close to the balance between presence or absence of a Probable Link. The process of preparing a Probable Link assessment involves generating data from our own research, integrating that information with studies conducted by others, careful evaluation and deliberation, and then writing a document to summarize the evidence and explain our reasoning. The process of assessing the evidence and composing the documents is far more demanding than we had anticipated at the outset, and each disease is handled separately.

In each case we have had to examine the data we have, consider consistency with published data where available, confer on how to make the results more definitive and, where necessary, go back to the data for additional analysis. For diseases which are borderline between yes and no, this necessitates additional effort, sometimes in several cycles. For all diseases, but especially those for which the evidence places them close to the “more probable than not” threshold, the process demands substantial time. In judging whether to try to truncate that level of scrutiny and rush through the remaining diseases, including some of the most important ones of concern, versus incurring a delay in order to be sure that each of the reports received our full attention, we have chosen the latter.

Lawyers for residents and for DuPont Co. seemed to accept this explanation, and neither side offered any criticism of the panel’s delay. Judge Beane, though, did say:

It’s frustrating when deadlines are set and then those deadlines are not met. The people who live throughout this community are wanting to know and we set these deadlines for a reason.

And if October comes and there’s another delay? Judge Beane said:

If it continues to be an issue, with whatever means I have to look into that, I will.

FDA reaches deals on C8 food packaging phase-out

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration posted this potentially important announcement on its website, revealing the somewhat old news that three makers of C8-based food packaging have agreed to voluntarily withdraw those products from the market. The FDA announcement spun it this way:

Recent scientific studies have raised safety concerns with one type of perfluorinated chemicals, known as C8 compounds. These compounds have perfluorinated chain lengths of 8-carbons (C8) or longer. The studies indicate that these C8 compounds persist in the environment and can have toxic effects on humans and animals.

In response to these studies, FDA initiated a comprehensive review of the available data on C8 compounds and worked with several manufacturers to remove greaseproofing agents containing C8 perfluorinated compounds from the marketplace. As a result of FDA’s initiative, these manufacturers volunteered to stop distributing products containing C8 compounds in interstate commerce for food-contact purposes as of October 1, 2011. Existing supplies of these greaseproofing agents already in the marketplace and paper products with these greaseproofing agents can be used until they run out.

The industry’s voluntary action to cease using greaseproofing agents containing C8 perfluorinated compounds means that these products will be out of the marketplace in a relatively short period of time. Because the potential danger from C8 compounds is a result of chronic exposure to such substances, FDA has determined that the exposure which will occur during this sell-off period will not impact public health. The agency will also conduct a market survey to determine whether any manufacturers are still using greaseproofing agents which contain C8 compounds.

We’ve written before in the Gazette about the link between food packaging and C8 exposure (see here, here and here), and today’s announcement comes just after the C8 Science Panel — which has linked chemical exposure to human disease — announced last week that it needs more time to complete all of its work. The FDA announcement was first reported on the website Food Poisoning Bulletin. There’s also been some very interesting reporting on C8 issues recently from Callie Lyons, including this story and a follow-up piece.

Keep in mind that makers of these products had already agreed to a voluntary phase out in a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, so the meaning of FDA’s announcement is not exactly clear yet. Leann Brown, spokeswoman for the Environmental Working Group told me today:

This isn’t a groundbreaking announcement. Several companies have reaffirmed that they are in the process of voluntarily phasing out these toxic chemicals from commerce, and the FDA is officially acknowledging their intention.


Just a few weeks after the latest probable link finding from the C8 Science Panel in the Mid-Ohio Valley, we’ve got a very interesting new paper out that focuses attention on how some health effects related to C8 exposure appear to be happening at very low levels — levels to which the general public is exposed.

The new paper was written by Gloria Post of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Perry Cohn of the New Jersey Department of Health, and Keith Cooper of Rutgers University. It’s called “Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), an emerging drinking water contaminant: A critical review of recent literature” and was published online by the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research (subscription required).

Among other things, the study reports:

— Continued exposure to even relatively low concentrations in drinking water can substantially increase total human exposure, with a serum drinking water ratio of about 100:1.

— Infants are potentially a sensitive sub-population for PFOA’s developmental effects, and their exposure through breast milk from mothers who use contaminated drinking water and/or from formula prepared with contaminated drinking water is higher than in adults exposed to the same drinking water concentration.

— Numerous health endpoints are associated with human PFOA exposure in the general population, communities with contaminated drinking water, and workers.

While the study notes that, “as is the case for most such epidemiology studies, causality for these effects is not proven,” it also reports:

Unlike most other well-studied drinking water contaminants,the human dose-response curve for several effects appears to be steepest at the lower exposure levels,including the general population range,with no apparent threshold for some end points.

And, the study says:

This information suggests that continued human exposure to even relatively low concentrations of PFOA in drinking water results in elevated body burdens that may increase the risk of health effects.

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.

Continue reading…

Panel named to oversee C8 medical monitoring

Here’s the release just in from lawyers for DuPont and attorneys for residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley:

DuPont and attorneys for local residents who settled a class action lawsuit against DuPont in 2005 over releases of ammonium perfluorooctanoate, also known as C-8 or PFOA, from DuPont’s Washington Works plant, announced today that they have jointly selected a three-member panel of independent, well-qualified and respected medical doctors – the “C-8 Medical Panel” – to determine the nature and extent of whatever medical monitoring may be appropriate for class members under the terms of the settlement.

As part of the settlement, a separate panel of three independent epidemiologists jointly selected by the parties – the “C-8 Science Panel” – was tasked with determining whether there are any “probable links” between PFOA exposure and human disease. The C-8 Medical Panel determines the nature and extent of any medical monitoring that would be appropriate for class members for any disease for which the C-8 Science Panel finds a probable link. Thus, after the C-8 Science Panel released its first set of probable link reports in December 2011 and announced that it had found a probable link between PFOA exposure and pregnancy induced hypertension, including preeclampsia, the parties immediately began working together to identify potential Medical Panelists to evaluate medical monitoring for this disease. After interviewing multiple well-qualified candidates, the parties have agreed to the following C-8 Medical Panel:

— Dean Baker, MD, M.P.H.  — Dr. Baker is Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Epidemiology at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. He is also director of the UC Irvine Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, a state mandated center for the study and prevention of occupational and environmental exposures, diseases, and injuries. For more than three decades, Dr. Baker has conducted substantive and methodological research in occupational and environmental health particularly on environmental exposures and diseases of children and work-related diseases of adults. He also directs an occupational medicine residency program to train physicians as specialists in occupational and environmental health.

— Melissa McDiarmid, MD, M.P.H., D.A.B.T. — Dr. McDiarmid is a Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland. She is also the Director of the school’s Occupational/Environmental Health Program. From 1991-1996, Dr. McDiarmid was Director of the Office of Occupational Medicine for the United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Dr. McDiarmid has authored numerous journal articles and book chapters on occupational and environmental medicine related to healthcare workers, medical surveillance and management, reproductive hazards, occupational cancers, and Gulf War environmental exposures.

— Harold Sox, MD, M.A.C.P. —  Dr. Sox is a Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the Dartmouth Medical School and the Associate Director for Faculty at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. Dr. Sox was the President of the American College of Physicians from 1998-1999. He also was Chairman of the United States Preventive Services Task Force from 1990-1995 and chaired the Institute of Medicine Committee to Study HIV Transmission through Blood Products and the Institute of Medicine Committee on Health Effects Associated with Exposures Experienced in the Gulf War.

The C-8 Science Panel will announce additional reports soon, and expects to announce all remaining reports by July 30, 2012. If the C-8 Science Panel finds any additional probable links between PFOA exposure and human disease, this C-8 Medical Panel will be tasked with evaluating the appropriateness of medical monitoring for any such additional disease, in addition to pregnancy induced hypertension, including preeclampsia.

C8 update: Kids, chemicals and vaccines

We had a story in this morning’s Gazette about another troublesome study of C8’s potential human health effects, reporting:

Researchers have found that children exposed to the toxic chemical C8 may experience reduced effectiveness of childhood vaccinations, according to a significant new study being published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study discovered lower levels of antibodies that vaccines provide to fight infections among children with elevated exposures to C8 and similar chemicals that have been widely used in nonstick food packaging, stain-resistant textiles, nonstick cookware and water-resistant clothing.

Harvard University researchers warned that the results, if replicated in future studies, could indicate that perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, are related to much broader immune system problems beyond the two vaccines they studied.

“These findings suggest a decreased effect of childhood vaccines and may reflect a more general immune system deficit,” wrote Dr. Philippe Grandjean, lead author and an adjunct professor of environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health.

You can read the paper yourself here.

But there’s another paper just out in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that is also worth a look. That paper reported:

In summary, we observed that children had higher PFOA concentrations compared to their mothers. The ratio was the highest among children up to age five years where, on average, children had PFOA serum concentrations 44% higher than their mothers. The ratio was significantly higher for boys compared to girls for children aged >5 years. In a population exposed to elevated PFOA concentrations via contaminated drinking water, children seemed to concentrate the chemical more than their mothers up to about age 12. This is probably due to exposure via drinking water as well as exposure in utero and via breast milk. Children had higher PFOS concentrations than their mothers and this persisted at least until 19 years of age, with on average concentrations in children 42% higher than in their mothers. In utero and lactational exposure appears to make less of a contribution for PFOS than PFOA. Further studies are warranted on the child-mother PFAA relationship to understand how children’s exposure and rate of uptake vary as they grow.

We’ve got our initial news story online from this morning’s press conference up in Wood County, reporting:

A three-person team of scientists has found a “probable link” between C8 and high blood pressure among pregnant women, but no such link between exposure to the chemical and other reproductive effects, including low birth weight, miscarriage and birth defects.

Members of the C8 Science Panel issued the findings, which are the first major conclusions of their six-year study of the DuPont Co. chemical.

Reports of the panel’s first “probable link” findings were filed this morning with Wood Circuit Judge J.D. Beane and were being released to the media at a press conference at a local conference center.

Along with four reports on their probable link findings, C8 Science Panel members were also issuing new “status reports” related to updated figures on C8 blood levels in Mid-Ohio Valley residents, outlining a connection between C8 exposure and thyroid disease, and a more detailed look at C8 and reproductive health outcomes.

The first-ever C8 “probable link” reports are on the C8 Science Panel’s website here, here, here and here. And their latest status reports are here, here and here.

Big news coming on Monday: The C8 Science Panel plans to release its first conclusions about whether there is a “probable link” between DuPont’s toxic chemical and any adverse health effects. According to a media advisory:

On the morning of Monday, December 5, the first C8 Science Panel reports on whether or not there is a probable link between C8 and human disease will be delivered to the Wood County Court. Probable link reports to be covered on Monday will include reproductive outcomes only; other probable link outcomes will be delivered at a later date as more research is completed.

The panel plans a press conference Monday morning to discuss the findings.

Under the terms of the 2004 class-action settlement, the Science Panel was set up to determine if there is a probable link between C8 and human disease. If there is, then DuPont is on the hook for more than $200 million to set up a medical monitoring program for Mid-Ohio Valley residents whose water supplies were polluted with C8.

As we’ve explained before:

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 Science Panel has said it would release all of its final probable link determinations by July 2012.

New paper finds possible C8 link to breast cancer

There’s a fascinating new paper out on the website of the journal Environmental Health, reporting “for the very first time a significant association between serum PFC levels and the risk” of breast cancer.

The paper is available here, and it was written by researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark.

Interestingly, the paper examines breast cancer among the  Inuit population of Greenland and Canada. The authors offered some cautions:

There are some weaknesses in the presented study. Firstly, the few subjects involved, 31 cases and 115 controls, gives a poor statistically power. However, the highly related serum PFC levels with the risk of BC cancer did persist in all our effort to make up a better case control frequency match.

And they also said:

The recent increase in BC incidence might be explained by the high burden of legacy POPs and increased exposure to new emerging POPs such as PFCs together with the recent transition in the Inuit diet from the traditional marine food to more western food and lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol intake.

While members of the C8 Science Panel were having their first-ever public meetings last week in the Parkersburg area,  the fine folks at West Virginia University’s Department of Community Medicine were churning out another study of C8’s potential health effects.

The latest work, published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology, reports:

We found that serum levels of perfluoroalkyl chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate, were positively associated with hyperuricemia. This association appeared to be independent of confounders such as age, gender, race-ethnicity, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, and serum cholesterol.

The study explains:

Serum uric acid is a novel biomarker, even mild elevations of which has been implicated in the development of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and chronic kidney disease.

Now, the C8 Science Panel previously reported on an association between C8 exposure and uric acid levels among residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley. But the new WVU study looked at data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys, and found an association between uric acid levels and C8 at C8 levels similar to those found in the general U.S. population, reporting:

Our results demonstrate that elevated levels of perfluoroalkyl chemicals are associated with hyperuricemia even at low perfluoroalkyl chemical exposure levels as seen in the US general population.