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EPA plans additional study of C8's impact

By Callie Lyons, clyons@mariettatimes.com

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a preliminary report Monday which said the chemical commonly known as C8 will have to undergo further scrutiny to determine if new rules are necessary in the interest of public health.

The EPA says it is premature to say whether the chemical, also known as PFOA, poses a risk to people.

The EPA will be expediting its scrutiny to make way for the most extensive scientific examination ever on this type of chemical, according to Steve Johnson, assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances.

The EPA's alarm over the chemical, which has been used by the DuPont Washington, W.Va., Works plant across the Ohio River from western Washington County for more than 50 years, stems from the fact that it causes delayed sexual maturation and mortality in lab animals.

The chemical, which is carcinogenic to animals, has not been assessed on any potential to cause cancer in humans.

"We have not done an assessment of cancer potential," said Charles Auer, director of the EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. "There is evidence it is carcinogenic to animals. But, there is considerable debate as to the relevance to humans."

DuPont officials insist the chemical, which was detected in the drinking water of people who live near the plant on both sides of the Ohio River, is harmless to humans. But, DuPont officials respect the position that there are still questions to be addressed.

"DuPont remains confident that our use of PFOA over the past 50 years has not posed a risk to either human health or the environment, and that our products are safe," said Richard Angiullo, vice president and general manager of DuPont Fluoroproducts. "Our confidence is based on an extensive scientific database. This database includes both publicly available, peer-reviewed scientific studies built throughout our long use of this compound, as well as worker surveillance data."

More than 3,000 residents have filed a class action lawsuit against the company for exposing them to the chemical. A Friday hearing will determine whether residents will be granted medical monitoring at the expense of DuPont.

Johnson said the presence of C8 indicates sources of the chemical beyond its release from manufacturing plants, such as DuPont. Evidence suggests the general U.S. population has been exposed to the chemical at very low levels. But uncertainty remains about exactly how it got there.

An EPA risk assessment was unable to determine the sources of the chemical, or the ways people were exposed. So, the agency is intensifying and accelerating its examination process to resolve scientific uncertainties.

The EPA is inviting the scientific community to gather and identify information relating to the chemical. Officials will evaluate comments from the public and begin a process to enter into agreements. A public meeting will be held June 6 in Washington, D.C., for interested parties to publicly negotiate agreements.

Despite claims by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based environmental research organization, that the chemical should be taken off the market and phased out of manufacturing processes, the EPA does not believe there is enough information to draw that conclusion. The working group believes Monday's EPA announcement is significant.

"We would like it to go faster, but they are constrained by a weak law," said Richard Wiles, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group.

Wiles said he and his colleagues are satisfied with the performance of the EPA, but dissatisfied with DuPont's handling of the matter.

Robert W. Rickard, director for the DuPont Haskell Laboratory for Health and Environmental Sciences, said industry continues to expand the knowledge available about PFOA.


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