Science panel adds thyroid, ulcerative colitis to list of C8 effects

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Aug 02, 2012 in Personal Injury

A report concerning the dangers of ammonium perfluorooctanoate, also known as PFOA or C8, reveals a definite linkage to ulcerative colitis and thyroid disease in people exposed to it. The independent scientists who reached these conclusions rejected the assertions by DuPont, a major user of the chemical, that it was a harmless substance. To the contrary, as West Virginians know, the chemical is dangerous to humans and to the environment.

The chemical is key to the manufacture of non-stick coatings that are resistant to heat and many chemicals. The non-stick coatings include Teflon, microwave popcorn bags and packaging for many fast-food products. While the products may be safe for consumers, runoff from the manufacturing plants can contaminate the surrounding communities' water supply.

For just that reason, a group of West Virginia residents brought a class action lawsuit against E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. in August 2001. Plaintiffs claimed that the Washington Works Plant in Wood County had polluted the area's drinking water with C8. As part of the settlement agreement, in 2005 the parties appointed the independent panel of scientists to study whether there was indeed a link between C8 and any human disease.

DuPont paid $70 million to fund the health initiatives associated with the settlement, later adding $20 million to the total. The corporation has also installed water filtering operations in the affected communities that have reduced the level of C8 significantly.

This report is one of a series produced by the panel. The first, released in December 2011, focused specifically on C8's effect on reproductive systems. The panel concluded that there is a link between PFOA exposure and pregnancy-induced hypertension, including preeclampsia. Reports released in April noted the link between PFOA and kidney and testicular cancer. In October, the panel should release its final report covering other health conditions, including heart disease.

That will not be the end of the matter, though.

In 2005, after years of negotiating, a group of West Virginia residents settled their class action lawsuit against E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. The residents -- about 80,000 in all -- claimed that the chemical company had contaminated the drinking water in the area with the chemical compound ammonium perfluorooctanoate, commonly referred to as C-8 or PFOA. DuPont uses C-8 in its manufacture of non-stick coatings, like Teflon.

Before the company would agree to pay for health monitoring for residents in the affected areas, a panel of independent scientists would have to determine what diseases and health conditions are actually tied to C-8 exposure. The panel released its first findings in December 2011. Another report followed in April, with a third released at the end of July. The last is due in October.

In addition to the links the scientists established (discussed in our last post), the scientists found no links to some diseases. In this most recent report, the panel said there was no link between the chemical and stroke, influenza, asthma, chronic obstructive airway disease, lupus, type 1 diabetes, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis or neurodevelopmental disorders in children, including attention deficit disorders and learning disabilities.

With ample proof that C-8 is linked to serious human diseases, the next step of the settlement agreement is under way. A medical panel is now in place that will carry out the medical monitoring program, funded by DuPont to the tune of $235 million.

DuPont has said that it will cease manufacturing and using the dangerous chemicals, although it is delaying that move until sometime in 2015. To mitigate the possibility of more people being harmed, the company also installed water treatment facilities in the affected water districts.

Source: The West Virginia Record, "Panel links PFOA exposure to thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis," Jessica M. Karmasek, July 30, 2012

Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our personal injury '>Charleston personal injury page.

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