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Kentucky firm claims it can reduce C8 levels

By Callie Lyons, clyons@mariettatimes.com

Vapcon, Inc., a Lexington, Ky.-based company, claims it has a product that will virtually remove C8 from drinking water through a distillation process.

The announcement could be a breakthrough in the development of technology to clean up the manufacturing chemical which is key to the production of Teflon. Du Pont officials, the makers of Teflon, are continuing their efforts to identify a clean-up system for the chemical but so far have not found anything.

"I am not the least bit interested in how C8 got in the water," said Tom Lamb, owner of Vapcon Inc., who demonstrated his product in Marietta Monday.

"It's in there, and I have a product that takes it out," said Lamb, a former 25-year resident of Parkersburg with family and friends throughout the area. "I want people to have clean water."

LifeMist Home Water Systems, which are sold and distributed by Vapcon, have been on the market for 26 years and are sold all over the United States and Canada. But only recently Lamb received scientific laboratory results, he said, that confirmed the system will reduce C8 to a level which is not quantifiable or detectable in parts per trillion.

The substance, which is known to scientists as PFOA, has been used and emitted by the DuPont Washington, W.Va., Works plant along the Ohio River for nearly 50 years. In that time, DuPont officials claim they have observed no harmful health effects for humans. In January 2002 C8 was discovered in the Little Hocking Water Association's system and subsequently in other systems as well.

Kris Thayer, a scientist from the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based environmental action group, hopes more people will come forward with enterprising technology that could contribute to the clean up of C8. But, she is concerned the price tag of the LifeMist distillation system may be too steep for the average person.

With raw tap water samples drawn from the Lubeck Public Service District near the West Virginia plant containing C8 in levels from 526 to 567 parts per trillion, Lamb tested and retested his distillation system to confirm that it will reduce the presence of C8 to nondetectable levels. To be sure, he paid for accurate laboratory tests, examining the water at levels of parts per trillion as opposed to parts per billion.

"C8 is one of the toughest things to get out of water because of the molecular structure and the weight of it," Lamb said. "Distillation is the best way to clean water.

But, Lamb also contends not just any distiller will remove or reduce C8. LifeMist systems, which start at $2,495 for a small home unit, are made with the highest grade of stainless steel and boil water at a much slower rate than other products. Steam from the heated water travels through a series of baffles, leaving contaminants behind. When it cools, the water collects in a stainless steel reservoir. The hardened contaminants accumulate, necessitating their removal every two or three weeks. There is no plastic employed in the distillation or distribution of the purified water.

"The quality is the same all the time because of the way the product is made," Lamb said. "There is no way to clean water the way my product will."

Although he suspected for some time that his distillation system would remove C8, it took longer than he could have imagined to prove it. The first laboratory he employed to perform tests notified him after the fact that he was not permitted to use their results. But eight months later, a second laboratory, Chemir of Maryland Heights, Mo., produced similar results that he could use.

DuPont scientists have said they know of no method to clean up the environmentally and biologically persistent chemical, which has been shown to cause reproductive and developmental problems in laboratory animals.

On Monday, DuPont spokeswoman Dawn Jackson said she had not heard of Vapcon and could not comment until some analytical work had been performed. However, Jackson said DuPont's efforts to develop cleanup technology were ongoing.

"There is a field trial that showed some promise for reducing low levels of C8," Jackson said.

With a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation into the chemical's toxicity pending and a class-action lawsuit regarding local water exposure in Wood County Circuit Court, verifiably safe drinking water is the most immediate concern for thousands of people whose supplies have been contaminated.

Last year two companies were caught wrongfully claiming that their home water filtration systems removed C8. There is no evidence to suggest that any filtration system would eliminate the manufacturing chemical.

Richard Wiles, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, said DuPont should be looking at this and every other possible method of taking C8 out of local drinking water supplies.

Concerning the validity of Vapcon's claims, Thayer and Wiles said it seems plausible.

"They don't have a great incentive to lie," Wiles said. "It looks like they are really driving the detection levels down pretty low."

C8 wasn't the only chemical Lamb tested the water for chemicals other than C8. The lab performed an extensive test, which looked at arsenic, lead, nitrates, and dozens of other substances, which are commonly found in drinking water in small amounts.


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