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Panel to release first C8 'probable link' findings

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A three-person panel studying the health effects of the toxic chemical C8 will release the first in a series of "probable link" decisions on Monday, the group said.

The C8 Science Panel plans to file a report with Wood Circuit Judge J.D. Beane and has scheduled a media briefing in Vienna outside Parkersburg.

"Probable link reports to be covered on Monday will include reproductive outcomes only," the panel said in a statement. "Other probable link outcomes will be delivered at a later date as more research is completed."

Science Panel members are working to implement a key provision of a $107.6 million class-action settlement between DuPont Co. and about 70,000 residents whose drinking water was polluted by C8 from the company's Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg.

Panel members Kyle Steenland, David Savitz and Tony Fletcher were appointed to study C8 and determine if there is a "probable link" between exposure and illness.

If they conclude there is, DuPont could be on the hook for up to $235 million for future medical monitoring for area residents. A finding of no "probable link" for a particular potential health effect eliminates the ability of residents to sue DuPont for personal injuries related to such a health effect.

The term "probable link" isn't a standard one for scientists who study toxic chemical exposure. It's defined in the DuPont legal settlement as whether "based upon the weight of the available scientific evidence, it is more likely than not that there is a link between exposure to C8 and a particular human disease" among Mid-Ohio Valley residents taking part in the suit.

C8 is another name for perfluorooctanoate acid, or PFOA. In West Virginia, DuPont has used C8 since the 1950s as a processing agent to make Teflon and other nonstick products, oil-resistant paper packaging and stain-resistant textiles.

DuPont and other companies have reduced their emissions and agreed on a voluntary phase-out of the chemical, but researchers are still concerned about a growing list of possible health effects and about the chemical's presence in consumer products, as well as continued pollution from waste disposal practices.

The Science Panel has already released a series of three status reports on its investigation of potential C8 effects on pregnancy outcomes.

The most recent report, issued in September, found no relationship between C8 exposure and stillbirth, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and pre-term births. Science Panel members have offered mixed conclusions about whether C8 could be related to low birth weight, saying that "conflicting patterns" between different studies "are of uncertain significance."

The panel initially reported in March 2009 a possible link between C8 and birth defects, but said a larger study in July 2011 found no such connection.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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