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Federal agency asked to consider chemical study

PARKERSBURG — A federal agency has been asked to collaborate on a national study of the health effects of PFAS, of which C8 and GenX are of the family of chemicals, otherwise lawsuits could be filed to force a study.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been repeatedly asked to look into the impact of PFAS. Attorney Robert Bilott, a lawyer in the federal C8 cases against DuPont, this week put the agency on notice that a suit could be filed within 60 days on behalf of Dr. Paul Brooks of Vienna and Jeffrey Hermes of Burlington, Ky.

The intent is not to redo the C8 study, but to expand that model to other chemicals in the broader and emerging PFAS chemical class, Bilott said.

“(The Environmental Protection Agency) acknowledged the risks posed by the entire family of PFAS in its ‘Long Chain Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) Action Plan,’ which was released over seven years ago, but has never been fully implemented,” his letter to the agency said.

Brooks is an authority on C8. His company, Brookmar, organized the health study into the impact of C8, also called PFOA, on 70,000 residents in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

The science panel studying the results of the study said there was a probable link between C8, once used by DuPont at the Washington Works to make Teflon, and six diseases in humans.

Hermes is a prostate cancer survivor and a firefighter who has used PFAS-based firefighting foams and gear made or coated with such chemicals for more than 25 years.

“We remain hopeful that this matter can be resolved within the next 60 days without the need for pursuing any citizens suit,” Bilott said in the letter.

The goal is to help the agencies design studies using the PFOA study models for these other broader class of chemicals, he said.

A comment from DuPont was not immediately available.

PFAS also has the attention of seven U.S. senators who wrote a letter on Aug. 31 to the Senate Committee on Appropriations asking the chairman and vice chairman for their support of programs addressing the unregulated and emergency water contaminant. The chemicals, of which among uses is firefighting foam, are being detected in drinking water sources around the country, the senators said.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018 authorizes a study led by the Centers for Disease Control with the EPA and the Department of Defense on the health effects and cumulative impact of PFAS contamination in drinking water, groundwater and other relevant pathways of exposure.

“The scope of contamination is also just beginning to be understood,” the letter said.

The Defense Department has conducted preliminary site inspections and estimates the remediation nationwide could cost $2 billion, the letter said. It also advocates the elimination of the contaminants and research into alternatives to PFAS.

The letter was signed by Michael Bennet of Colorado, Patty Murray, Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Margaret Wood Hassan of New Hampshire.

On Aug. 24, six public health officers from New York, Alaska, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont, where there have been issues with C8 contamination, asked the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to quickly move on a national study on the health effects upon communities by PFAS. Communities in those states have dealt with PFOA contamination.

“Our state health departments, along with other states in the northeastern United States, have been working to address PFAS contamination since 2015 by minimizing exposure to PFAS in drinking water and some states are offering blood testing for affected residents,” the health officers said. “These efforts are supported by fact sheets, online tools and resource and assistance with blood testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Subtances and Disease Registry.”

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