There is a link between C8 exposure and human disease, according to the C8 Science Panel who released their first set of probable link findings this week. The panel determined that there is a link between exposure to PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
This is significant because the development triggers the next phase of settlement in the class action lawsuit brought by Mid Ohio Valley residents against DuPont over the presence of the manmade chemical in several public water supplies. DuPont has used C8 for more than fifty years at Washington Works near Parkersburg, W.Va., in the manufacture of Teflon and many other consumer applications.
The panel’s determination was based on data from the C8 Health Project and four related studies which identified more than 3,000 cases of pregnancy-induced hypertension in exposed populations. Similarly, a link was detected between C8 exposure and preeclampsia.
The panel did not find a probable link between C8 exposure and pregnancy loss, low birth weight, or birth defects.
Dr. David Savitz explained the panel’s findings, calling pregnancy-induced hypertension a “serious complication of pregnancy” and one that is known to increase the risk of preterm birth.
While the condition typically resolves with the birth of the baby, Savitz said women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy are at an increased risk of having it again with subsequent pregnancies. He said pregnancy-induced hypertension is also a “predictor” of problems later in life.
Even so, Savitz said the number one cause of pregnancy-induced hypertension is obesity, which is something that can be more directly addressed by women of childbearing age. He also encouraged expectant mothers to fully participate in prenatal care - and to follow the advice of their doctors.
The term “probable link” is court terminology, not scientific jargon. Specifically, the C8 Science Panel was appointed for the purpose of determining whether, given the available scientific evidence, there is more likely than not a connection between PFOA exposure and human disease in class members.
As a result of the panel’s findings, a medical panel will be established to determine whether medical monitoring is called for under the terms of the settlement. At the conclusion of the suit, if a “probable link” has been found, the settlement agreement provides for $235 million to be paid out by DuPont for medical monitoring.
The C8 Science Panel is expected to release two more sets of findings before concluding their work in July 2012.
DuPont officials say they do not believe that PFOA causes pregnancy-induced hypertension, but they will move forward with their obligations under the settlement agreement.
“DuPont has committed to no longer make, buy or use PFOA by 2015, or sooner if possible,” company officials said in a statement. “We have made significant progress toward this commitment, including commercializing next-generation offerings that are made without using PFOA, and that cannot break down to PFOA in the environment.”
The company has requested a permit change in order to replace the controversial manufacturing substance. Documents obtained from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection indicate the new substance intended for use in fluoropolymer production is called by the trade name C3. In the permit application, DuPont calls the new technology a “sustainable solution that includes a new processing aid with a favorable toxicological profile and rapid bioelimination”.
Little else is known about the substance. DuPont’s permit, if it is successful, would allow C3 to be discharged into the Ohio River. WVDEP is accepting public comments on the matter until December 26.