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Tuesday, February 20, 2007
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Residents weigh possibility of C8 hiding in their gardens

By Connie Cartmell,

For years you have been told to eat your fruits and vegetables because they are good for you.

Questions are being raised now that those touched by C8 may face a bitter harvest.

Jane Rauch, 72, of Little Hocking, took original advice to heart — growing a large home garden to help feed her family. With each harvest, she puts up hundreds of quarts of green beans, apples, peaches, and tomatoes and stores the food for winter.

“My family has always eaten out of the basement,” Rauch said proudly.

Today, researchers looking at C8 incidence in people living in the Little Hocking Water Association Service District, have concerns about locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Earlier studies showed higher blood C8 levels in residents tested who ate larger amounts of locally grown fruits and vegetables.

“Any study will spawn as many issues as answers,” said David Freeman, chairman of the Community Advisory Committee for the Decatur Community Association. “Why higher levels of C8 in this group? We’re trying to understand why this would be.”

Funding for an outside study is being sought and may be close to happening, he said.

The cost of analysis is more than the original study could support, according to Ellen Mumma, community coordinator of CAC.

“Each type of fruit or vegetable requires a special extraction process to obtain a sample suitable for measuring C8,” Mumma said.

The CAC heard an update about the possible link between C8 and homegrown produce at its January meeting. The next meeting will be in April.

“It could be anything — air or water — getting the C8 into the fruits and vegetables. Nobody knows,” Mumma said. “Dr. Emmett (lead researcher) thinks it might be because of the way the food is prepared (canned or frozen).”

The chemical, also known as PFOA, has been used by DuPont at its Washington Works plant across the Ohio River from Belpre and Little Hocking since the 1950s, and became a health concern for many area residents after it was found in water systems.

A link between C8 and any diseases in humans has not been proven, though the science advisory board working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently said the chemical is likely a carcinogen. Last year the acceptable level of C8 in drinking water was dropped from 155 parts per billion to 0.5 ppb.

“So far, we haven’t been able to show any direct correlation between C8 and human health,” Mumma said. “Certainly, the chemical shouldn’t be in the water.”

DuPont officials maintain the chemical is not harmful to humans, but recently said it will be phased out by 2015 and will not be part of any DuPont product. It is best known in the production of Teflon, a non-stick coating for cookware.

“They’ve cut way back on it,” Mumma said.

People who live outside the Little Hocking area have no need to worry about local produce and fruit, experts say.

“With the first round of our study, overall, there has not been a lot of harm that’s jumped out at you,” Freeman said. “People who live here are not quite as much on edge as they first were, a few years ago. A lot of my neighbors have gardens.”

Currently there are no health recommendations on fruits, vegetables, and plants.

“This study is part of our laundry list of things to look at,” he said.

Belpre Township Trustee Asa Boring, his wife, Wanda, and their family have lived in the shadow of DuPont since 1972.

“We live about a half mile from the Ohio River in Little Hocking, a mile and a half from the plant,” Boring said. “We’ve been eating from our garden for quite some time now and drinking from our well since 1972.”

Boring, 64, a trustee 20 years, isn’t planning on curtailing his home garden, although his well water is filtered now.

“The EPA has assured me that it (C8) travels through the air too,” he said. “We’ve canned from the garden for years and it has caused no ill effects to any of us.”

Boring recovered from a bout with cancer in 1998, but is more suspicious of his 33 years working in the chemical industry than of C8 exposure.

“I didn’t blame it on the C8 then, and I don’t today,” he said.

Green beans, tomatoes, apples, peaches, pears — way over 100 quarts now stored in Rauch’s cellar in Little Hocking — is not a concern to her, she said.

“I can the same as I always did,” she said. “I don’t think too much about it.”

Rauch is one of hundreds of Little Hocking area residents tested for C8.

“My count was extremely high, more than 1,200, but I don’t know what that means,” Rauch said. “I didn’t advance to the next level of testing.”

In studies of people in the area, higher blood C8 levels were observed in student participants who consumed larger amounts of locally grown vegetables and fruits.

Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Department of Agriculture, along with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), have expressed interest in the issue.

A major problem for people living in the area, especially for those who have been tested for C8, is they don’t know what the numbers mean.





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