PARKERSBURG — Residents from Huntington to Evansville, Ind., have higher-than-normal levels of perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as C8, according to a study released this month from the University of Cincinnati.
The report, based on the analyses of blood samples collected over 22 years, said the exposure source was likely from drinking water affected by industrial discharges flowing downriver. The study was in the last issue of “Environmental Pollution.”
C8 was once used by DuPont to make Teflon at the Washington Works in Wood County. The plant is now operated by Chemours, the spinoff company created in 2015.
The conclusions in the study were no surprise to Dr. Paul Brooks, whose company, Brookmar, spearheaded the collection of health data from around 70,000 people in the region used by the C8 Science Panel, created in 2005 in the settlement of the classaction lawsuit against DuPont, that determined there was a probable link between C8 and six diseases in humans.
“It’s exactly what we expected,” Brooks said.
The study showed drinking water from the Ohio River and Ohio River Aquifer, affected by industrial discharges from 130 to 415 miles upstream, is likely the primary exposure source. Granulated activated charcoal filters mitigate, but don’t eliminate concentration, the study said.
Carbon filters were initially installed in six local water districts from the original C8 settlement and installed in the city of Vienna in 2016 when the Environmental Protection Agency set a long-term concentration level of .07 parts per billion.
However, while the water supply is not above that level in Parkersburg, wastewater with C8 continues to be discharged into the Ohio River and flows to points downriver, including Cincinnati, where the water supply is fed by the river, Brooks said. Millions of gallons of water a day are going into the river from Parkersburg, he said.
“We’re not helping them downriver any,” Brooks said.
The study said elevated PFOA concentrations suggest exposure through drinking water. From the sera collected between 1991 and 2013 of 931 participants, PFOA was detected in 99.9 percent of sera and 47 percent had concentrations greater than the U.S. population 95th percentile, the study said.
“These Mid-Ohio River Valley residents appear to have had concentrations of PFOA in their bloodstream at higher than average U.S. levels,” said Susan Pinney, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and the senior author of the study, in a release from the university.
Pinney is a member of both the Cincinnati Cancer Consortium and the college’s Cancer Institute.
Robert Herrick, a co-author of the study and a doctoral student at the college, said PFOA concentration in the blood significantly decreased when carbon filters are used. The study also researched municipal water distribution systems and the areas they serviced.
“We conducted statistical analyses to determine if factors such as location and years of residence, drinking water source and breast feeding were predictors of the person’s serum PFC concentration,” Herrick said.