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theHandpuppet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-19-04 11:20 AM
Original message
DuPont's C8 Contamination Widespread, EPA says
An article well worth the read!

http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2004071826

July 19, 2004
DuPonts C8 contamination widespread, EPA says

By Ken Ward Jr.
Staff Writer

In June 1984, officials from DuPont Co. put together a list of sampling results from drinking water near the companys Parkersburg chemical plant. The list, called Update on C8 in water samples, was marked personal and confidential.

A March sample from Washington showed 1.2 parts per billion. A June sample from Lubeck found 1.5 parts per billion.

Over the next few years, DuPont found similar concentrations of C8, a chemical it had used for decades to make Teflon products, in water supplies downstream from its Washington Works plant.

<snipping>

In a 31-page complaint, EPA said that DuPont fails or refuses to recognize that its C8 contamination in public drinking water is ongoing, that C8 contamination extends into peoples homes, and that DuPont had never informed of levels of C8 contamination of drinking water greater than three times higher than DuPonts own limits.

Specifically, EPA officials allege that DuPont never told the government that it had water tests that showed C8 in residential supplies in concentrations greater than the companys internal limit.

Also, EPA alleges that DuPont withheld for more than 20 years the results of a test that showed that at least one pregnant worker from the Parkersburg plant had transferred the chemical from her body to her fetus.

That information, EPA said, supported animal tests that showed that C8 moves across the placental barrier. EPA said that agency efforts to understand C8s health effects might have been more expeditious if DuPont had submitted the human test results back in 1981.

Much more...

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mike_c Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-19-04 11:32 AM
Response to Original message
1. yet another example of the abuses of corporations acting...
...only in the interests of their bottom line. A twenty-year pattern of willful abuse of the public good in the service of corporate greed.
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-19-04 08:58 PM
Response to Original message
2. This article demonstrates the general level of scientific literacy in our
media.

Before discussing the level of reporting, let's first familiarize ourselves with the chemistry here. "C8" is a trade name for perfluorooctananoic acid or PFOA. A brand name for this compound with which many people more familiar then they would be with "C8" or PFOA would be "Scotch Guard," a chemical product once manufactured by the 3M corporation and widely used in millions of homes and cars to create a protective layer on upholstery and carpet so that if one spilled coffee on them, they could wipe the coffee off without staining the fabric. The product worked very well, as I know, because I had some in my home for many years.

PFOA or "Scotch Guard" or "C8" belongs to a general class of compounds known as fluorocarbons. Most refrigerants are fluorocarbons, HFC's though most are not perfluorocarbons. The difference between fluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons is that in the latter case, all of the hydrogens in the original hydrocarbons have been replaced by fluorines.

One property of perfluorocarbons is their extreme stability. They don't normally participate in chemical reactions of any kind and thus there is no ordinary mechanism by which they are eliminated from the environment. For instance, the man-made compound perfluoromethane is used as a cleaning solvent in the manufacture of solar cells and computer chips. It has a GWP of 5,700, which means that it is 5700 times as potent molecule for molecule as is carbon dioxide in participating in "global warming." It also has an atmospheric half life of over 50,000 years, whereas the half lives of other global warming gases such as methane and carbon dioxide are on the order of a few decades.

Because perfluorcarbons do not participate in chemical reactions, and do not react in living systems, they are generally thought of as being "non-toxic." Teflon, which is a perfluoro polymer is an example. One could eat Teflon (and people frequently do, generally unintentionally) and not worry at all about toxicity, since teflon does not react with tissue. In fact, teflon parts are often used in medical devices for exactly that reason.

So what does all of this have to do with perfluorooctanoic acid and the article in question? First let's look at the article's early comment about how chemists at Dupont recognized that "C8" was in drinking water and marked it "personal and confidential." It sounds nefarious doesn't it? I'm sure that's what the author intended, to sound nefarious. Then it's darkly stated that the levels of "C8" rose from 1.2 ppb to 1.5 ppb! Further its stated how a pregnant woman exposed to "C8" transferred the compound to her fetus! Horrible! Horrible! Isn't it? "C8" moves in the placental barrier! Even worse!

What's missing folks?

Here's what's missing: A discussion of whether or not C8 is toxic in any way! Were it so, we ought to be hearing quite a bit about people who were severely injured by "Scotch Guard." Have you?

Here is an excerpt from a report on the toxicity of PFOA by the EPA:

"No treatment-related effects were reported at any dose level for any of the mating and fertility parameters assessed, including numbers of days to inseminate, numbers of rats that mated, fertility index, numbers of rats with confirmed mating dates during the first and second week of cohabitation, and numbers of pregnant rats per rats in cohabitation. At necropsy, none of the sperm parameters evaluated (sperm number, motility, or morphology) were affected by treatment at any dose level.

At necropsy, statistically significant reductions in terminal body weights were seen at 3, 10, and 30 mg/kg/day. Absolute weights of the left and right epididymides, left cauda epididymis, seminal vesicles (with and without fluid), prostate, pituitary, left and right adrenals, spleen, and thymus were also significantly reduced at 30 mg/kg/day. The absolute weight of the seminal vesicles without fluid was significantly reduced in the 10 mg/kg/day dose group. The absolute weight of the liver was significantly increased in all dose-groups. Kidney weights were significantly increased in the 1, 3, and 10 mg/kg/day dose groups, but significantly decreased in the 30 mg/kg/day group. All organ weight-to-terminal body weight and ratios were significantly increased in all treated groups. Organ weight-to-brain weight ratios were significantly reduced for some organs at the high dose group, and significantly increased for other organs among all treated groups."

http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/pfoa/pfoara.htm

Sounds scary doesn't it? Until at least you look at the doses being given the sickly rats, 30 mg/kg/day. Since an ordinary human being weighs between 50 kg and 100 kg, this corresponds to eating between 1.5 grams to 3.0 grams a day, every day, throughout an entire pregnancy. Put another way, in order to get this dose at the "horrible" level of 1.5 ppb (parts per billion) one would have to drink 75,000,000 grams of water, or 75,000 liters. I think the water would cause problems long before the PFOA.

The article goes on to list the fact that PFOA passes the placental membrane. So does that awful compound discussed here at DU, dihydrogen oxide.

Here is what 3M did with PFOA: They banned it, on the grounds that it was a persistent compound. You can no longer buy "Scotch Guard," except on the black market. This was erring on the side of caution. What scared them was 1) that the compound was extremely persistent, 2) Could be easily detected widely distributed in tissues and 3) that fact 2) could be used by a scientifically illiterate jury in a lawsuit to find a large judgment against 3M. The fact though that any toxicity associated with PFOA is subtle, if present at all.

Fluorocarbons can, under certain circumstances, disrupt hydrogen bonds (since fluorine, as a 2nd row electronegative element is hydrogen bonding) and hydrogen bonds are important to living systems. Therefore, even though they are chemically inert, it is possible to imagine that PFOA and other perfluorocarbons can indeed have some mildly toxic effects. (I note that it takes huge doses, apparently to kill a rat, though) However the concentrations required to achieve this effect is rather high, certainly much higher than the ppb that so upset the author of this newspaper scare story. (In a scientifically literate world, this article would be in the World Weekly News, and not the local newspaper.) Still I think the case is far from obvious that there was insidious intent here or that the case is far from as serious as the reporter implies. In fact, the reporter seems to be a fool. What is scary is that such fools are too often taken seriously.
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GAspnes Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-20-04 01:41 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. I guess we need
a risk/reward study then.

Are Scotch-Guard and Teflon worth the risk of putting a persistent chemical that crosses the placental barrier into the environment?
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-20-04 06:37 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Scotch Guard is not.
Edited on Tue Jul-20-04 06:53 PM by NNadir
Teflon maybe. Teflon saves lives and is a critical material in so many technological devices it may be worth it. Teflon does not have the properties associated with more problematic persistent perfluorocarbons. It is generally not volatile (unless decomposed by extreme heat), and it is not known to be toxic to any ecosystems. It is, for all intensive purposes, much like a rock or like sand.

Scotch Guard (C8) only makes carpets and sofa stain free. It is known to accumulate in tissues, and although it is of very low toxicity, its volatility could make it, should it persist long enough and manufactured in large quantities, a potential powerful greenhouse agent. I can relate to its banning, since the main use is trivial, it has a very long life time and high mobility. It's long term effects and environmental fate and interactions are unknown. (CFC's, the ozone depleters, were once thought of as wonder compounds, being non-toxic and non-flammable at least until their stratospheric chemistry was understood. Even if they were not ozone depleting agents, they would still be greenhouse gases.)

Indeed, two of the most problematic gases in the greenhouse equation are perfluorocompounds with extremely long life times and extremely potent global warming potentials; the are perfluoromethane and sulfur hexafluoride. The former is generated in the manufacture of solid state electronic devices like computer chips and solar cells, as well as the preparation of refrigerants and hydrofluoric acid, and the latter has been used to replace PCB's in large transformers.

I don't really worry about the toxic effects of perfluoromethane which is equally as persistent as C8, maybe even more so, and equally biologically inert. I do worry very much though about it's global warming potential.

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GAspnes Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-21-04 12:04 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. that's not a numerical analysis
I thought you believed in numbers?
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