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Federal agencies press for inventory of products with C8

By Callie Lyons,

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's investigation into the chemical known as C8 is making progress in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission.

Next week officials from both agencies will meet with industry representatives and other interested parties in Washington, D.C., to work on the terms for disclosing information which would potentially identify a comprehensive list of consumer products related to the substance scientists recognize as PFOA. The composition of such a list would require DuPont and other manufacturers to release information they consider confidential for business practices.

"It's all part of the EPA process," said Kathy Forte, DuPont vice president of public affairs. "A technical group is looking at confidential business information. Obviously, there is information which businesses consider confidential and proprietary to businesses for many reasons."

Forte said the primary reason for maintaining business confidentiality is to keep information out of the hands of the competition.

"At the same time, we recognize there is information the EPA will need as a part of its consent process," Forte said. "We have concerns, obviously, but we believe the EPA process is the best way to handle this."

Locally, the issue has significance because C8 has been detected in several public water systems near the Washington, W.Va., DuPont plant that has used and emitted the substance through its manufacturing process for 50 years. The discovery in January 2002 prompted several government investigations into the possible health risks of the chemical known to scientists as PFOA.

DuPont officials contend that over five decades of handling the chemical, they have found no harmful health effects for humans. However, their claim is being contested in the Wood County Circuit Court where a class action lawsuit has been filed by people who have the substance in their drinking water and fear longterm ill effects.

"The whole idea is the EPA is trying to get industry, through a voluntary process, to share a lot of information," said Ken Giles, spokesman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Giles said the EPA is trying to answer a number of questions: What products are it in? Does it come out? What are the health effects? What does industry know about the health effects? And, what plans do industry have to alter or change the manufacturing process which includes the substance?

"We don't have the answers yet," Giles said.

But, if the chemical, which is related to thousands of consumer products such as a non-stick coating on cookware, does have health effects, Giles said the Consumer Product Safety Commission would be concerned.

The Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based scientific research organization, petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission in May, asking that warning labels be placed on non-stick cookware because fumes from heated pans can kill household birds. Giles said the cooperative investigation between the EPA and the CPSC is a broader issue, not limited to Teflon-coated cookware, but also including other consumer products.

Some people think it would be a good idea to identify the products related to C8 with a warning label.

"I think it's definitely a good idea for cookware because it's just awful that people don't know," said Julie Zickafoose, of Whipple.

As an area naturalist and a mom, Zickafoose is concerned the harmful effects seen with birds could mean danger for humans.

"Sometimes I wonder why I'm still using it. But it's so convenient and I'm really careful," Zickafoose said. "You can't really take any innovation for granted because you can't tell what the side effects might be over time."


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