Sustained Outrage

DuPont to pay $8.3 million in New Jersey C8 deal

DuPont Co. has quietly reached a deal to pay $8.3 million to resolve a pair of lawsuits over pollution of New Jersey water supplies with the toxic chemical C8.

The details of the deal, as outlined in this court filing, are that the money is earmarked to pay for water filters for 4,800 residences that rely on the Penns Grove, N.J., water system. The community is located near DuPont’s Chambers Works facility.

The settlement was proposed last month, after U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb rejected an initial proposal that called for the money to be contributed to several community organizations in the area.

Recall that DuPont settled a major C8 case here in West Virginia, in a deal that is funding multiple studies of the chemical’s dangers. In another West Virginia C8 case, U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin threw out most of the plaintiffs’ claims against the company. That ruling is now under appeal.

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.

Minn. AG sues 3M over PFC pollution

This just in from the fine folks at Minnesota Public Radio:

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has filed suit against Minnesota-based industrial giant 3M for contaminating groundwater with PFCs, formerly an ingredient in stain repellents, fire retardants and other chemical products.

In a press release this morning, the AG said that a six-month moratorium on legal action expires today. The company and the state had entered into a formal negotiation agreement in May and negotiated on a settlement for six months.

In her statement, Swanson said no settlement was reached during the talks, which expired today.

See previous Sustained Outrage coverage of PFC issues in Minnesota involving 3M here, here, and here.

EPA cuts pre-Christmas deal with DuPont

Just days before Christmas — with the press and the public occupied with holiday events and family obligations — the Obama administration’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a fascinating new legal settlement with chemical giant DuPont Co.

The EPA press release announced:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that DuPont has agreed to pay a penalty of $3.3 million to resolve 57 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) violations. DuPont failed to immediately notify EPA of research indicating substantial risk found during testing chemicals for possible use as surface protection, masonry protection, water repellants, sealants and paints. The Toxic Substances Control Act requires companies to inform EPA when they have research demonstrating that a chemical could pose a substantial risk to human health and the environment.

I’ve posted a copy of the settlement here. If you look closely, you’ll notice one interesting thing regarding the timing of this deal: DuPont officials and at least one EPA official signed off on it way back in September. A final EPA signature was added on Dec. 6. But, an EPA announcement was withheld until the middle of the busy holiday week. And perhaps I’ve missed it, but I haven’t been able to find much media coverage of the deal. If a quiet announcement was intended, then EPA and DuPont succeeded.

Keep in mind now that it was just five years ago that EPA announced what it said at the time was “the largest civil administrative penalty EPA has ever obtained under any federal environmental statute” — a $10.25 million fine to be paid by DuPont for covering up studies about the potential dangers of the toxic chemical C8. As part of that deal, DuPont also agreed to spend $6.25 million on “supplemental environmental projects,” including an investigation of  the potential of some DuPont products to break down into C8 and a “green chemistry program” at Wood County, W.Va., schools.

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C8 update: Chemical found in N.J. water supply

The good folks at New Jersey Public Television have a new story out about sampling results that found troubling levels of C8 in at least one local water supply.

You can watch correspondent Ed Rodgers’  report online, and here’s a quick summary:

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection has been sampling 31 different public water supplies in New Jersey for the substance called PFOAs. It is the main ingredient in teflon and stain resistance substances. A water sample taken from the Brick Township Municipal Utility Authority was above the NJ guidance level but below the federal standard. DEP officials say they are now conducting follow-up tests on both the raw and finished water that goes to consumers’ homes.

In a somewhat related development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently posted on one of its online dockets a copy of the edits that the White House Office of Management and Budget made to EPA’s “action plan” for dealing with C8 and related perfluorinated chemicals.

Now usually, these sorts of strike-thru and underline documents from OMB are where we see the White House gutting environmental and workplace safety regulations (Check out the reports from the fine folks at the Center for Progressive Reform for many examples).

And indeed there are a few cases of that here, such as this:

EPA intends to consider initiating a TSCA section 6 rulemaking for managing long-chain PFCs.

With that, a statement that EPA was definitely going to initiate rulemaking on C8 became a statement that EPA would think about doing so.

And, the OMB was sure to make EPA add this paragraph explaining the uses and importance of these kinds of chemicals:

PFCs are substances with special properties that have thousands of important manufacturing and industrial applications. They impart valuable properties, including fire resistance and oil, stain, grease, and water repellency. For example, they are used to provide non-stick surfaces on cookware and waterproof, breathable membranes for clothing, and are used in many industry segments, including the aerospace, automotive, building/construction, chemical processing, electronics, semiconductors, and textile industries.

But there are also some interesting instances where OMB appears to have greatly strengthened this particular EPA document.

For instance:

To date, significant adverse effects have not been detected found in humans general human population; however, significant adverse effects have been identified in laboratory animals and wildlife.

And then there’s this section, where OMB added a whole bunch of material about the potential impacts of PFCs on children:

Long-chain PFCs are a concern for children’s health. Studies in laboratory animals have demonstrated toxicity, including neonatal mortality. Children’s exposures are greater than adults due to increased intakes of food, water and air per pound of body weight, as well as child-specific exposure pathways such as breast milk, consumption, mouthing and ingestion of non-food items, and increased contact with the floor. Biomonitoring studies have found PFCs in cord blood and breast milk, and have reported that children have higher levels of some PFCs compared to adults. Thus, given the pervasive exposure to PFCs, the persistence of PFCs in the environment, and studies finding deleterious health effects, EPA will examine the potential risks to fetuses and children.

DuPont Co.  was among a list of “polluting companies” cited in a new report by the Center for Public Integrity that reveals an interesting twist from the federal government’s “Stimulus” program:

In the name of job creation and clean energy, the Obama administration has doled out billions of dollars in stimulus money to some of the nation’s biggest polluters and granted them sweeping exemptions from the most basic form of environmental oversight, a Center for Public Integrity investigation has found.

The administration has awarded more than 179,000 “categorical exclusions” to stimulus projects funded by federal agencies, freeing those projects from review under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Coal-burning utilities like Westar Energy and Duke Energy, chemical manufacturer DuPont, and ethanol maker Didion Milling are among the firms with histories of serious environmental violations that have won blanket NEPA exemptions.

Even a project at BP’s maligned refinery in Texas City, Tex. — owner of the oil industry’s worst safety record and site of a deadly 2005 explosion, as well as a benzene leak earlier this year — secured a waiver for the preliminary phase of a carbon capture and sequestration experiment involving two companies with past compliance problems. The primary firm has since dropped out of the project before it could advance to the second phase.

Agency officials who granted the exemptions told the Center that they do not have time in most cases to review the environmental compliance records of stimulus recipients, and do not believe past violations should affect polluters’ chances of winning stimulus money or the NEPA exclusions.

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EPA adds C8 to endocrine distruptor screening list

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced earlier today that it was adding two perfluorindated compounds to the list of chemicals that will be screened for their potential to be endocrine disruptors.

EPA said that its latest list of 134 chemicals to be screened includes Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA or C8, and Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS. As EPA explained in its press release:

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interact with and possibly disrupt the hormones produced or secreted by the human or animal endocrine system, which regulates growth, metabolism and reproduction.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said:

Endocrine disruptors represent a serious health concern for the American people, especially children.  Americans today are exposed to more chemicals in our products, our environment and our bodies than ever before, and it is essential that EPA takes every step to gather information and prevent risks.

We are using the best available science to examine a larger list of chemicals and ensure that they are not contaminating the water we drink and exposing adults and children to potential harm.

New study: C8 exposure linked to food wrappers

Another new study has linked human exposure to C8 and similar chemicals to food wrappers.

The study, published in summary form online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that chemicals used to keep grease from leaking through fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags are migrating into food, being ingested by people, and showing up in human blood.

University of Toronto experts Scott Mabury and Jessica D’eon, who have performed previous studies of the food wrapper-C8 connection, did this latest study.

This particular study looked at  polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters, or PAPs, breakdown products of the perfluorinated carboxylic acids, or PFCAs, which are used in coating the food wrappers. Rats were exposed to PAPs and monitored for three weeks to track the concentrations of PAPs and PFCA in their blood.  The researchers then used the PAP concentrations previously observed in human blood together with PAP and PFCA concentrations in the rats to calculate human exposure to perflurooctanoic acid,  better known as PFOA or C8.

D’eon said:

We suspected that a major source of human PFCA exposure may be the consumption and metabolism of polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters or PAPs. PAPs are applied as greaseproofing agents to paper food contact packaging such as fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags.

Mabury said:

We found the concentrations of PFOA from PAP metabolism to be significant and concluded that the metabolism of PAPs could be a major source of human exposure to PFOA, as well as other PFCAs.

This discovery is important because we would like to control human chemical exposure, but this is only possible if we understand the source of this exposure. In addition, some try to locate the blame for human exposure on environmental contamination that resulted from past chemical use rather than the chemicals that are currently in production.

In this study we clearly demonstrate that the current use of PAPs in food contact applications does result in human exposure to PFCAs, including PFOA. We cannot tell whether PAPs are the sole source of human PFOA exposure or even the most important, but we can say unequivocally that PAPs are a source and the evidence from this study suggests this could be significant.

PARKERSBURG,  W.Va. — On the heels of the West Virginia University study earlier this month that found children and teens exposed to C8 are more likely to have high cholesterol, the C8 Science Panel today is releasing its latest findings: A report that compares C8 exposure data to the age at which boys and girls experience puberty.

The three-member panel is studying the potential impacts of C8 (also known as PFOA) and the related chemical PFOS on residents who live near DuPont’s Washington Works Plant in Wood county, south of Parkersburg.

In general, the panel found that PFOS exposure reduced the odds of boys having reached puberty. Boys with higher exposure to PFOS appeared to have reached puberty later than those with lower exposure.

Among girls, exposure to both PFOA and PFOS appears to be related to reduced odds of having reached puberty. Girls with the highest exposures to both chemicals reached puberty later than those with lower exposures.

Today’s press conference at the Blennerhassett Hotel is the first time that Parkersburg-area residents are hearing about this from the Science Panel.

But, panel leader Tony Fletcher of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine gave fellow scientists a sneak preview of it during a conference in mid-September.  Fletcher was also scheduled to present a paper on the subject at another scientific conference — this one in Korea in late August — but I’m told the necessary analysis was not completed in time for that event.

We’ve reported before about a University of Cincinnati study by Susan Pinney and others that found a relationship between PFOA and breast growth in girls and young women, an indication that PFOA “acts as an endocrine disruptor.” In essence, this study found an earlier onset of puberty — measured in the study by breast maturation — in girls exposed to PFOA.

A more recent study, released two weeks ago and published in the journal Environment International, reported no impact from PFOS exposure on puberty age in young girls, as measured by the onset of the menstrual cycle. This study examined in utero exposures to girl offspring and measured those against the onset of menstrual cycles, or “menarche”  in those girls.

But study authors from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control cautioned that “there is a biological plausibility for such an association” —

Exposures during pregnancy are extremely relevant to pubertal development, since this represents the period of organ and brain development, including the brain, endocrine system and reproductive tract.

They also warned:

… Due to a relatively small sample size, the study may have been underpowered to detect an association between gestational PFC exposure and age at menarche.

We’ll have more on this in tomorrow’s Gazette.

UPDATED: Here’s a link to the Science Panel’s new report.

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

A new study by West Virginia University researchers and others has found that children and teens exposed to C8 and related chemicals may be more likely to have elevated levels of total and LDL cholesterol.

The study is to appear in this month’s issue of the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.  The authors include WVU researcher Stephanie J. Frisbee and numerous colleagues.

In part, the study represents the peer-reviewed and published version of some results that were previously made public by the C8 Health Project at WVU and later by the C8 Science Panel. But the study provides a more complete and refined look at this data, which was collected by the C8 Health Project as part of the class-action lawsuit settlement between DuPont and thousands of Mid-Ohio Valley residents who drank water polluted with C8 from the company’s Washington Works plant.

Interestingly, among the nearly 12,500 children and teens whose blood was sampled, average C8 (0r PFOA) concentrations were higher than those detected in the general U.S. population — probably because of their exposure from living near the DuPont plant. But, the levels of  PFOS, a related chemical not necessarily related to the plant’s emissions, were similar to those from the general population — an indication perhaps that the children got that exposure somewhere else. Of course, these chemicals are everywhere, having been used in a wide range of consumer products like non-stick skillets, food packaging and non-stain materials like clothing and carpets.

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