In response to elevated levels of C8 detected in the Ohio River at Cincinnati, the US EPA is asking DuPont to perform additional testing to determine more about how the manmade substance travels.
The EPA is trying to learn how DuPont’s C8, also known as PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid, has made it so far away from Washington Works near Parkersburg, West Virginia. The chemical has been used there for more than fifty years to make Teflon and other stain-resistant, nonstick surfaces and applications – hundreds of applications used in thousands of consumer products.
Cincinnati Water Works has been tracking C8 in the river since 2005 when they detected levels of 100 parts per trillion – a number that exceeds the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection health-based action level of 40 parts per trillion.
“Sampling in 2005 was triggered by a few issues including the general awareness of C8 compounds such as PFOA to potentially be in the water and the knowledge of DuPont and the situation in southeast Ohio,” said Jeff Swertfeger, Assistant Superintendent of the Water Quality and Treatment Division of Greater Cincinnati Water Works.
According to a March 3 letter from Jim Willis, director of EPA’s Chemical Control Division to DuPont, “the Ohio River is a major drinking water source downstream from the site.”
EPA is pushing DuPont to perform testing that will help them understand the pathway of exposure.
“Greater than 2 million people use the Ohio River as a source of drinking water downstream from the site, and potential exposure to PFOA associated with the site is not known,” Willis said.
Data provided by Cincinnati Water Works indicates that annual sampling has taken place demonstrating a gradual decline of C8 in the water over the past four years. In 2006, levels of 21 parts per trillion were detected in the river. By April 2009 that number had decreased to 11 parts per trillion.
Swertfeger says Cincinnati Water Works did not perform any testing on their finished water.
DuPont officials have yet to respond to the findings.
C8 is bio-accumulative, meaning that it collects in the human body, so even small amounts contribute to elevated exposure. While PFOA has been proven to negatively impact the health of animals, scientists from all over the world are working to determine whether or not C8 can be linked to human disease. US EPA has classified the substance as a “likely carcinogen”.