By Philip Elliott, firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Institutes of Health will pay for a study to
investigate the presence of a chemical found in the Little
Hocking water system to detmine its effects on Mid-Ohio Valley
residents' health. The federal agency has allocated
$840,000 during the next four years to test residents' blood
and breast milk for a chemical used at the nearby DuPont
Washington Works and then determine what health effects - if
any - the chemical has on humans.
A class-action suit filed in West Virginia in 2001 alleges
DuPont knowingly allowed a chemical with the trade name of C8, a component used during
the production of Teflon, to be discharged into local water
supplies at unsafe levels and caused adverse effects on
DuPont claims there is no evidence C8 poses a threat to humans.
The study will shed more data on the issue.
The research would focus on the Little Hocking Water
Association, which serves 12,000 residents in western
Washington County. About 400 customers would be tested as part
of the study.
Cutler resident Eugene Harlow said any effort to educate
customers is a good idea and research should determine the
actual sources of contamination.
"I think it'd be nice if you could educate people about
it," said Harlow, 80. "I wonder if some of the contamination
they're blaming on DuPont isn't from some of the other
Dr. Edward Emmett of the University of Pennsylvania School
of Medicine applied for funding to examine the issue. He
proposed a partnership with HealthSouth rehabilitation
hospital in Parkersburg and the Decatur Community Association.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grant
requires researchers to partner with a local healthcare
provider and a community organization.
"What we're really primarily trying to do is to assess the
exposure in terms of what the level of C8 is in the blood of people
who live in the area, and relate that to the amounts in the
air and the water and other sources," Emmett said.
Decatur Community Association trustee David Freeman said
his group would work to educate residents on the study, slated
to begin next year.
"Really, a lot of it is going to be education," Freeman
The association also would coordinate a community advisory
board of about 15 residents. That group would provide the
local communication necessary for Emmett's research.
Emmett first learned about the issue through conversations
with Dr. Hong Zhang, an occupational and environmental health
physician at HealthSouth. Zhang was participating in a
continuing studies program at the University of Pennsylvania.
"In our minds, there was an absence of data about what the
real levels might be, what are the important factors," Emmett
said. "There is virtually no, if any, independent science on
After an 18-month application process, Emmett heard in
September his study would receive funding.
The researchers will study biomarkers, the indicators of
how organs are working - or not working - and if C8 has any implications,
The researchers also plan to identify how residents came
into contact with C8, whether through well
water, commercial water systems, air or occupational
DuPont Haskell Laboratory for Health and Environmental
Sciences Director Dr. Robert Rickard said the company welcomes
the University of Pennsylvania efforts.
"We have not seen the details of the study design, and we
cannot comment specifically," Rickard said in a statement.
"However, we welcome any scientifically sound study to help us
further understand exposure to the community."
Little Hocking Water Association customer Kim McMichael
said he, too, welcomes the inquiry.
"It sounds great," said McMichael, 49. "I think it's
necessary to do. I wish we didn't have to, though."
McMichael said the C8 study would help, but the
combination of multiple chemicals in the water should be
examined and the rules changed for full disclosure.
"I feel like the customers should have a right to know
what's in the water," he said. "I would like to see the rules
change a little bit so that if the company is putting
chemicals in the water, people should be aware. I would have
liked to have known when they knew."