On Thursday, September 3, in partnership with the Environmental Working Group, Keep Your Promises hosted a public heath briefing on C-8 contamination in the Ohio River.
Below is the transcript of the presentation portion of that call. The question and answer session can be found in the audio file of the call, which can be found here.
THE CORPORATE ACTION NETWORK:
Keep Your Promises DuPont | Public Health Briefing
September 9, 2015/3:00 p.m. EST
Dr. Paul Brooks
Moderator Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for joining today’s public health briefing on Ohio River C-8 water contamination, hosted by Keep Your Promises and Environmental Working Group. Today’s call will last approximated 15 minutes and will be followed by a question and answer session. If you would like to follow up with Keep Your Promises or Environmental Working Group for any further information, please contact Maggie Flanigan at [email protected].
I’d now like to introduce Jeffrey Dugas, advisor to Keep Your Promises DuPont.
Jeffrey Thank you Shanay, and thank you all for joining us this afternoon. Keep Your Promises DuPont is deeply concerned by recent scientific findings showing that C-8 contamination is a more dire issue than previously believed and is directly affecting communities along the Ohio River based on the contamination site in Parkersburg, West Virginia all the way to Cincinnati, Covington, and potentially further down river.
Just to give you some background here, Keep Your Promises DuPont is an organization based out of Parkersburg, West Virginia that’s dedicated to holding DuPont to the promises the company made to mid-Ohio Valley communities in connection to their contamination with the chemical C-8. We launched in January of this year and we’re now representing hundreds of members in the Valley concerned for the future of their communities because of this chemical. In a moment I’m going to introduce our other speakers, but I also want to recognize the other two advisory committee members on this call with us: Joe Kiger and Harold Bock. I want to thank them.
This briefing is designed to present the current and real danger of C-8 and what can be done to protect our communities. The scientific data is compelling and I’d like to introduce Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, who will give some background on the chemical, its origins, and its known health effects.
Ken Thanks so much Jeffrey. This is Ken Cook and I’m really thankful to have this opportunity to visit with all of you. I look forward to the back and forth as we complete our presentation today.
Environmental Working Group has been focused on the dangers of C-8 – also known as PFOA – for over ten years and our latest release, in partnership with Keep Your Promises, reveals that the contamination we’ve been looking at for all of that time is even more serious than previously thought.
C-8 is of course the chemical that was used by DuPont to manufacture Teflon at the company’s Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia for over half a century starting in 1951. And, it was also made for many many years by 3M Corporation in Minnesota. In 2001 it was discovered that C-8 had contaminated drinking water and the local population in the mid-Ohio Valley, centered on the Parkersburg plant. Later findings revealed a probable link between C-8 contamination and six different diseases and this is still probably a partial list that may well be growing. Those include links to testicular and kidney cancer, ulcerative colitis – which is an inflammatory bowel disease on the lining of the large intestine and rectum – thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia – which is not just high blood pressure but it’s often related to kidney damage going back to the kidney cancer kidney activity mentioned just above – and high cholesterol.
So, while that contamination has been reduced by filtering of drinking water in some mid-Ohio Valley communities, it’s now pretty clear that C-8 contamination is a national problem. Last week, Environmental Working Group and Keep Your Promises released a report that reviewed the latest science on C-8 from two of the most prominent environmental health scientists in the country, who’ve published numerous studies on the health hazards of this chemical. This study by Dr. Philippe Grandjean of Harvard University and Dr. Richard Clapp of the University of Massachusetts concluded that EPA’s current guideline for C-8 contamination in filtered drinking water is hundreds or even thousands of times too lax to fully protect human health. Now, as we probably all know, EPA’s current health advisory – a non-enforceable standard – is 0.4 ppb, which is much less than a teaspoon in an Olympic size swimming pool. But Grandjean and Clapp said it should be no higher than 0.001 ppb. And, working from their data, EWG scientists calculated that it might be more accurate to say that the safety level is 0.0003 ppb.
So, why is this significant? C-8 has been found in drinking water supplies, by our survey of tap water testing, in supplies serving 6.5 million people in 27 states. But that testing, the sensitivity was based on the old EPA guideline – fairly high of 0.4 ppb. Now, the EPA found only a small number of water systems contaminated with C-8 above that level, but even the smallest levels that they found were well above what the new science tells us is safe.
EPA has been studying C-8 for more than a decade, but it may be another six or seven years before they get around to even considering a legally enforceable drinking water standard to be established under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The new science says that we can’t wait that long. The new science tells us, as is too often the case unfortunately, that a level of contamination that is legal probably is not safe. So, we feel we must act now. Jeff, back to you.
Jeffrey Thank you Ken. I’d also like to add that just last week Keep Your Promises and Environmental Working Group held a productive meeting with the EPA where we made it clear that there is a necessity for the agency to establish an appropriate guideline level for C-8 contamination in drinking water. And, just as a side note, we are also pursuing meetings with the West Virginia DEP and the Ohio DEP as well. I’d also like to note that Environmental Working Group has been on the forefront of this issue for over a decade and has really been instrumental in the widespread recognition of C-8 as a public health hazard, so we’re very glad to have Ken on the call.
I’d now like to introduce Dr. Paul Brooks, a resident of Vienna, West Virginia, and an advisory committee member to Keep Your Promises DuPont. Dr. Brooks was a leader of the epidemiological study of over 69,000 residents of the mid-Ohio Valley that lead to the findings of the six linked diseases. Prior to his work on the study, Dr. Brooks was also a trusted physician in the Parkersburg area for decades. Dr. Brooks?
Dr. Brooks Thank you Jeff, and thanks to the people who are listening to this presentation. I’m to give some of the scientific data that I think will greatly enhance the requirement to treat this water and remove that chemical. The reason scientific findings will impact I think all of the communities along the Ohio River at least from Parkersburg from Cincinnati at this time and maybe further on down the river depending on what testing is done at those different locations. And I have to say, as a medical professional I have to strongly recommend that public and private water supplies along the river be filtered if they test positive for C-8.
To make this recommendation have a little validity, I think we need to point out some reasoning behind the recommendations. And, Ken just covered a good portion of that in his presentation and suggested that the levels are many many times higher than they should be – that are acceptable at this point set by the EPA. And, the reason for filtration is basically this: that the main source of C-8 exposure to humans is the water, and C-8 accumulates in humans to have a half-life of approximately four years. That means that if you – for simple numbers – if you get five parts today, about four years from now you have two and a half parts. If you get that same five parts tomorrow, then in approximately four years from that date, you still have five parts because only half of it leaves every four years. So, the higher you start the longer it takes to get the serum level down, and it won’t come down very readily unless the force is attacked and made to be zero. And also the study showed a very interesting thing that often times we think that chemicals or whatever cause things if they are in greater concentrations. However, C-8 is really not one of those. It is shown in studies as early as 2010 that low levels of serum C-8 in humans cause approximately the same elevation of cholesterol as very high levels. So, it doesn’t take long to get those low levels with it accumulating the way it does. It’s sort of like the old scenario with Aspirin to prevent heart attacks. If you recall 25 or 30 years ago, recommended you take 650 mg of Aspirin to stop platelet coagulation. Today, it’s 81 mg – does exactly the same thing. So, C-8 kind of follows that scenario.
At this time, I think it’s safe to assume that the only level of C-8 in humans that doesn’t have a toxic potential would be zero. Now, until that’s proven by further studies scientifically. So, to sum it up, human serum levels can be markedly decreased by water filtration. The study was done in Cincinnati because they were measuring for other things. They put in a filtration system, and then when they studied the young girls, part of them were from Covington Kentucky, part of them from Cincinnati. The Covington girls showed a much higher level of C-8 in their blood than the girls who participated in that from Cincinnati. And the only thing that was different: Cincinnati’s water was filtered. Covington, Kentucky’s wasn’t at that time but now they have put carbon filters on their water system.
As Ken pointed out, the target level probably – according to the latest science paper that came out with Grandjean and Clapp – would be probably 0.0003 ppb. That is in contrast to 0.4 that the EPA now has set back several years ago. I believe that the immediate threat to the health to the residents along the river, that it is imperative that filtration be done as soon as possible to remove this danger. We know that the water treatment and the safety of the water is placed on the shoulders of the local municipalities that serve it and so we hope that they can begin to realize that progress needs to be made towards filtering their water.
I thank you very much for listening. Back to you, Jeff.
Jeffrey Thank you Dr. Brooks. I’d also like to take a moment just to recognize Dr. Brooks for his recent award from the West Virginia School of Medicine, where he was named the school’s 2015 Distinguished Alumnus. So, congratulations to him and just once again I want to thank Dr. Brooks and Ken for being on this call and I want to acknowledge Joe and Harold, our two other advisory committee members working on the ground in Parkersburg.
The latest science on C-8 indicates that it is a more serious, more widespread problem than previously thought. Contamination is widespread as far down the Ohio River as Cincinnati, and we believe that communities along the river between Parkersburg and Cincinnati are at serious risk. Several affected water districts on the stretch have already installed filtration systems and we strongly urge your communities to do the same. We now have a couple minutes to take questions so I’ll turn it over to Shanay to moderate.