HOCKING, Ohio -- Kenny Taggart always volunteered for blood drives
at the DuPont plant across the Ohio River, where he spent most of
his adult life mixing chemicals used to make Teflon anti-stick coatings.
Taggart stopped by the plant's medical office in the early
1980s to offer another pint, the nurse shook her head and
turned him away. His name was on a list of employees whose
blood was contaminated with ammonium perfluorooctanoate, a
chemical known within the company as C8.
didn't know much about C8, but DuPont did.
scientists issued internal warnings about the chemical as
early as 1961, according to DuPont records filed last year
with a West Virginia court. Medical studies conducted during
the 1970s and '80s by DuPont and 3M, chief supplier of the
chemical, showed that C8 builds up in human blood, doesn't
break down in the environment and might cause serious health
problems, including liver damage, reproductive and developmental
defects and cancer.
records also show the company has known for at least two decades
that C8 contamination extends beyond workers at its Washington
Works plant west of Parkersburg, W.Va., where the chemical
has been used since 1951 to help keep Teflon and related coatings
from clumping as they are manufactured.
the warning signs about C8 mounted at DuPont, few people outside
the company were told, including thousands of people in the
surrounding river valley who drink and breathe the chemical
every day, according to internal documents and interviews
with local officials.
officials didn't know much, either. Like thousands of other
chemicals used by industry, C8 is not regulated by the federal
government. But that could soon change.
dumped 55,000 pounds of C8 into the Ohio River during
1999. It released another 31,250 pounds of C8 into the
air during 2000, the latest year for which figures are
Where it's been detected
show that C8 has contaminated drinking water supplies
in West Virginia and Ohio. C8 from undetermined sources
has been detected in the blood of humans and wildlife
across the United States.
A question of safety
and West Virginia officials say the C8 levels found
in drinking water aren't harmful. The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency is conducting a study that could result
in federal regulation of the chemical.
DuPont, U.S. EPA, West Virginia Department of Environmental
from U.S. EPA MEMO, Sept. 23, 2002
studies in rodents and primates have shown that exposure
to PFOA [C8] can result in a variety of effects, including
developmental / reproductive toxicity, liver toxicity
from U.S. EPA MEMO, Sept. 27, 2002
. . additional blood sample analysis data indicate low
level exposures [of C8] to the general population that
are unexplained at this time.''
growing concerns about the persistence of C8 in humans and its potential
health effects, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched
an investigation in September to determine a national standard for
the chemical. A decision is expected later this year.
agency took action after 3M provided research showing that millions
of Americans likely have been exposed to the chemical. The studies
detected low levels of C8 across the nation in human blood and in
foods such as apples, bread, green beans and ground beef.
scientists still are trying to determine how C8 spreads in the environment
and what it can do to humans.
pressure from the EPA to contain C8 and a related chemical used
in Scotchgard, 3M announced in May 2000 that it would stop making
them. DuPont now makes C8 at one of its own plants.
knows how much C8 I've still got in my blood,'' said Taggart, 62,
who retired from DuPont nine years ago but still drinks C8-contaminated
water at his home in Little Hocking. ''It can't be good. If it was,
the good Lord would have put it in your body when he made you.''
says it's safe
levels found in local drinking water aren't harmful, DuPont says.
The company also says the chemical is used to help process Teflon
and is removed before the coating is applied to cookware, clothing
and other products sold worldwide.
C8 is persistent in human blood, there is no evidence of adverse
human-health impact,'' DuPont says on a Web site (www.c8inform.com)
it established last March to give the public information about the
asked to comment, DuPont repeatedly referred The Dispatch to the
on at least a half dozen studies by 3M and DuPont that revealed
C8 accumulates in the blood of workers and can be found outside
manufacturing plants, DuPont established a ''community exposure
standard'' in 1991 of 1 part per billion in drinking water.
May 2002, after much higher levels were found in drinking water
on the Ohio side of the river, the state of West Virginia declared
that the safe level of C8 in water is 150 parts per billion, a dramatic
departure from the standard DuPont continued to cite in internal
documents as recently as November 2001.
officials say their exposure standard was never intended to be a
''safe level,'' although a June 1987 memo from the company's safety
office shows that DuPont scientists were instructed to establish
an ''acceptable level for C8 in community drinking water.''
internal levels are typically set so conservatively that we are
positive we can comply with any level that regulators might set,''
said Dawn Jackson, a DuPont spokeswoman. ''Most importantly, we've
been using C8 for more than 50 years, and we have not identified
any health effects associated with exposure.''
documents show that both 3M and DuPont had concerns about animal
testing that showed possible connections between C8 and health problems.
Those concerns, however, were downplayed over the years.
officials urge further study.
studies in rodents and primates have shown that exposure to (C8)
can result in a variety of effects, including developmental/reproductive
toxicity, liver toxicity and cancer,'' EPA scientists wrote in a
Sept. 23 internal memo.
and monkeys are two species that scientists test to determine whether
chemicals are toxic to humans.
Ohio, C8 has been detected in drinking water as far away as Pomeroy,
70 miles downriver from the DuPont plant, and 4 miles upriver in
Belpre, a discovery that federal and state officials say indicates
the contamination can spread through air as well as water.
highest levels found so far are in wells of the Little Hocking Water
Association, which are directly across the river from the DuPont
plant. Tests conducted last year by DuPont contractors revealed
that every time the association's 12,000 customers in Washington
and Athens counties turn on a tap, their water contains levels of
C8 twice as high as DuPont's community standard of 1 part per billion.
officials shut off one of the association's wells last spring after
tests detected levels of C8 that were nearly eight times higher
than DuPont's community standard. Test borings in the well field
found levels in groundwater that were 78 times higher than the DuPont
tests Ohio water
records show that DuPont has known about the contamination in Little
Hocking since at least 1984, when the company sent an employee across
the river to fill a jug with tap water from Mason's Market, the
local general store.
tests detected C8 in drinking water on both sides of the river,
according to an Aug. 29, 1984, DuPont memo stamped ''personal and
confidential.'' The memo is one of several internal DuPont documents
filed with a Wood County, W.Va., circuit court hearing a class-action
lawsuit filed by plant neighbors.
fact that DuPont didn't tell people anything about the C8 says something,''
said Robert Griffin, general manager of the Little Hocking water
system. ''Either they didn't know what it does, or they didn't want
us to know what they know.''
executives say the tests were part of a ''comprehensive effort to
learn more about C8.''
acted with the absolute confidence that the low or non-detectable
levels of C8 found in the Little Hocking water samples during the
mid-1980s posed no risks to the health of Little Hocking residents
or our own employees in the area,'' Richard Angiullo, vice president
and general manager of DuPont's fluroproducts division, said in
a written statement.
Mason, who has owned the Little Hocking general store since 1968,
said sales of bottled water have increased since the village was
first informed about the C8 contamination last year.
from her customers has been mixed, Mason said. Some are reluctant
to question DuPont, a source of well-paying jobs in a corner of
Appalachia faced with chronically high unemployment. Others feel
''violated'' by the chemical contamination of water they rely upon
daily for drinking and bathing.
feels like a burglar has snuck in through my back door,'' Mason
said. ''It's there, it's been there for years, and we're stuck with
an agreement reached last March with the EPA, DuPont must reduce
air emissions of C8 to half of 1999 levels by the end of this year.
The company also installed equipment to strip the chemical from
wastewater dumped into the Ohio River, but there apparently is no
known method to remove C8 already in the environment.
scientists began their inquiry in the late 1990s after 3M told the
agency that a related chemical, which was used in the company's
line of Scotchgard products, had been found in blood banks from
Boston to Los Angeles. Studies provided by 3M showed the chemicals
could pose widespread risks to human health and the environment,
according to the EPA.
by the EPA to come up with a solution, 3M chose to stop making all
'' perfluorochemicals,'' including C8 and the Scotchgard compound,
which was used to protect carpets, clothing, fabrics and upholstery
from stains and other damage.
agency was prepared to take steps to order the chemicals off the
market if 3M had not acted, according to a May 16, 2000, memo written
by Charles Auer, director of the EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention
months later, DuPont announced that it would start making C8 itself
at a plant in Fayetteville, N.C. ''It was essential that DuPont
take steps to ensure reliable access to this vital raw material,''
the company said in a news release announcing the move.
has studied about 40 alternatives to C8, all of which were abandoned
because they either didn't meet the same performance standards or,
like C8, were found to accumulate in human blood.
at 3M said they have no evidence that C8 and the related chemical
used in Scotchgard (perfluorooctanyl sulfonate, or PFOS) pose a
long-term risk to human health.
decision to phase out production is based on our principles of responsible
environmental management,'' Charles Reich, a 3M executive vice president,
said when the company announced it would stop making the chemicals.
Web site says 3M officials told DuPont the phaseout ''was not based
on any health or safety concern.''
and company records, though, suggest the chemicals may be more dangerous
than 3M and DuPont have publicly acknowledged.
1978, after 3M told DuPont that C8 had been detected in the blood
of workers at a Minnesota plant that manufactured the chemical,
DuPont officials said that C8 might be causing ''toxic effects''
and started their own testing program.
3M reported in 1981 that C8 caused birth defects in rats, both companies
reassigned women who worked in areas where the chemical was used.
They later allowed the women to return to their regular jobs.
also advised employees exposed to C8 to not give blood but later
lifted those restrictions.
1990, a researcher in Minnesota found that 3M employees with long-term
exposure to C8 had higher rates of death from prostate cancer than
employees who did not work with the chemical. DuPont and 3M discounted
the results, saying the test group was too small.
companies stepped up their research in the 1990s. In a 1997 summary
of test results, DuPont said company scientists still didn't understand
how C8 caused cancer in animals ''and therefore relevance to humans
cannot be completely ruled out.''
American Conference of Government and Industrial Hygienists, a national
group of workplace health experts, considers C8 a ''confirmed animal
carcinogen with unknown relevance to humans.'' The banned pesticides
DDT and chlordane are in the same category.
of the most recent studies, conducted last year for 3M, suggested
a link between C8 and reproductive and developmental defects in
rats. But the companies say the mechanism that caused tumors in
rats might not be relevant to humans.
. . . are uniquely sensitive to C8's mechanism of toxicity,'' DuPont
says on its Web site.
another industry study, C8 was found to kill monkeys and cause damage
to the liver and gastrointestinal tract, ''suggesting a different
mode of action than observed in rats,'' according to a draft EPA
hazard assessment prepared last spring.
EPA believes all of the test results may be relevant to humans.
toxicology data submitted to the agency suggest a potential for
reproductive/developmental toxicity, and additional blood sample
analysis data indicate low-level exposures to the general population
that are unexplained at this time,'' the EPA's Auer wrote in a Sept.
Virginia officials say they based their ''safe level'' of C8 in
drinking water on the latest available science. The Ohio EPA did
not conduct its own study but endorsed West Virginia's findings.
the feds come up with something different, we'll reassess the situation,''
said Jim Leach, an Ohio EPA spokesman.
panel of scientists that came up with the limit of 150 parts per
billion in drinking water included representatives from DuPont and
the federal government. It acted under West Virginia laws written
to protect water and air from chemical contamination.
just couldn't wait for EPA to finish its hazard assessment, which
could take years,'' said Perry McDaniel, an attorney for the West
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. ''We studied the matter
and then negotiated with DuPont to get some action quicker than
Virginia's C8 limit has been criticized by plant neighbors who sued
DuPont over the contamination; local water officials in Ohio; and
the Environmental Working Group, a research organization in Washington.
pretty clear they used selective science to mislead the public,''
said Richard Wiles, the environmental group's senior vice president.
''They appear to have come down on the side of being less protective
of public health and more protective of DuPont.''
group has reviewed thousands of pages of documents submitted to
the EPA by 3M and DuPont and has posted many of them on its Web
site (www.ewg.org). Based on that review, the group concluded that
West Virginia greatly underestimated the risks posed by C8.
instance, West Virginia officials told the public they had applied
various EPA-approved safety factors to their calculations but didn't
actually do so, Wiles said. Among other things, the factors would
have accounted for the persistence of C8 in humans and the environment,
exposure to the chemical through air and food and exposure to infants.
those factors had been applied, Wiles said, the allowable level
of C8 in drinking water would be between 1.5 and 15 parts per billion,
much lower than the 150 parts per billion limit established by the
released a statement praising the West Virginia department for supporting
the company's position ''that the presence of C8 at the low levels
detected to date in drinking water in the Mid-Ohio Valley is not
company stands by its conclusions.
methodology was consistent with the EPA's methodology,'' said Jackson,
the DuPont spokeswoman, who called the Environmental Working Group's
West Virginia established its standard, attorneys for plant neighbors
obtained a court order to prevent the leader of the scientific panel
from destroying documents related to the investigation. One of the
documents proposed a draft ''safe level'' of C8 in water of 1 part
per billion, identical to DuPont's community standard.
also note that Jennifer Seed, a U.S. EPA toxicologist on the West
Virginia panel, abstained from voting on most of the group's findings.
Seed later wrote a memo urging the federal agency to conduct more
study of C8. She did not return telephone calls requesting comment.
because the EPA is conducting its own study doesn't mean the agency
has rejected West Virginia's work, McDaniel said. ''What they are
doing and what we did are two totally separate issues and processes,''
he said. ''We relied upon accepted EPA protocols and used the best
who live near the DuPont plant can thank a West Virginia farmer
for setting in motion a series of events that informed the public
about the C8 contamination.
Tennant and his wife, Sandra, won a legal settlement from DuPont
two years ago after they accused the company of sickening their
family and killing their cattle by dumping C8 into a landfill near
their farm. When their attorney, Robert Bilott of Cincinnati, asked
the EPA to order DuPont to stop using C8, the company sought a restraining
order to prevent ''intense media coverage'' of the request.
general public's fascination with the topic of environmental contamination
and related litigation is evident in the wild success of movies
such as . . . Erin Brockovich,'' DuPont lawyers wrote in a motion
arguing that public disclosure of the C8 contamination would prejudice
jurors in the Tennant case.
federal judge rejected the request for a restraining order. And
after West Virginia residents near the DuPont plant began to learn
their water was contaminated with C8, Ohio officials started to
ask questions about the chemical.
we started out back in the '60s, our biggest worry was the water
was too hard,'' said Lyle Dayhoff, a retired medical technologist
who helped start the Little Hocking Water Association. ''We never
had a hint that we might have a problem with DuPont.''
Poole, manager of the Tuppers Plains-Chester Water District in Meigs
County, said the discovery of C8 in local drinking water has prompted
some of his 5,000 customers to resort to dark humor to express their
years ago, the district placed second in a taste test sponsored
by the National Rural Water Association. ''My friends joke that
it must have been the C8,'' Poole said.
me, this C8 contamination is a trespass, and they (DuPont) should
be treated as trespassers,'' he said. ''But unless the U.S. EPA
steps in, there is not much we can do about it.''