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The C8 Health Project:What Have We Learned?

The protective coating home cooks have come to love, on pots, pans and skillets may make clean-up in the kitchen easier, but what about keeping arteries clean?

The chemical in question, which has been exhaustively studied at West Virginia Unviersity (WVU) is ammonium perfluorooctanoate (C8),  and its derivative salts used by the EI du Pont de Nemours and Company chemical company to aid in the production of non-stick and protective fluoropolymers such as TEFLON™, Scotchguard™, and Gore-Tex™.  Manufactured by 3M® and sold exclusively to DuPont until 2000, 3M no longer manufactures C8, but DuPont now manufactures and uses it.

The C8 Health Project was conducted between August 2005 – July 2006 by Brookmar Inc., as part of the settlement agreement reached in the case of Leach v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., No. 01C-608 (W. Va., Wood County Cir. Ct. filed Apr. 10, 2002). 

In 2002 perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was found in the water supply in the mid-Ohio River Valley; a lawsuit ensued leading to the above mentioned settlement and the C8 Health Project analyzing blood work in children who had been exposed to the contaminated drinking water for at least one year.

PFOA and PFOS are part of the family of man-made compounds called perfluoroalkyl acids. Humans are vulnerable to exposure to these acids through food packaging, microwave popcorn and non-stick pots and pans.

Published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Stephanie Frisbee, WVU School of Medicine assessed blood lipid levels in over 12,000 children aged 1 - 18 years.   Concentration of PFOA and PFOS  in their blood was found to be 69.2ng/mL and 22.7ng/mL respectively, much higher than the national median.

Participants 12-19 years old who had ingested the contaminated water supply for a minimum of one year were found to have PFOA concentrations of 29.3ng/mL while PFOA amounts in participants who had not been exposed was only 3.8 ng/mL.

Participants with higher PFOA levels revealed to have increased overall cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol, while those with higher PFOS levels revealed increased overall cholesterol and HDL "good" cholesterol.   High cholesterol is believed to be a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke.

"The issue becomes important because of the cumulative effect of that level of elevated cholesterol over a 30-year-period," Frisbee said in an interview last week.

Study authors said, "PFOA and PFOS specifically, and possibly perfluoroalkyl acids as a general class, appear to be associated with serum lipids, and the association seems to exist at levels of PFOA and PFOS exposure that are in the range characterized by nationally representative studies."

PFOA and PFOS were positively associated with serum lipid levels in previous occupational and adult studies.

DuPont Co. has used C8 since the 1950s at its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg, WV as a  processing agent to make Teflon and other nonstick products, oil-resistant packaging and stain-resistant textiles. Industry leaders have promised to phase out C8 and some related chemicals, however scientists are still concerned that exposures continue from chemicals already emitted and distributed in a wide range of consumer products.

In conclusion, authors said, "Although the epidemiologic and cross-sectional natures of this study limit causal inferences, the consistently observed associations between increasing PFOA and PFOS and elevated total cholesterol and LDL-C levels warrant further study."

Low levels of C8 have been found in individuals all around the world.  Regulators have yet to set a federal standard for its safety even in the mounting evidence of the chemicals dangerous effects.