VIENNA - The C8 Science Panel released the latest and final probable link reports at a press conference Monday, including a link between C8 exposure and medically diagnosed high cholesterol.
The panel found no link between C8 exposure and Parkinson's disease, non-malignant liver disease, non-malignant kidney disease, osteoarthritis, coronary artery disease or high blood pressure. The findings were announced via Skype then phone conference here Monday after panelists were notified all their flights had been canceled due to Hurricane Sandy.
In a prepared statement, DuPont officials noted plaintiff attorneys have recently began advertising for clients to sue DuPont alleging C8 actually caused personal injury.
"Lawsuits have already been filed. Lawsuits such as these ignore family history and lifestyle choices as leading causes of health issues and disease in specific individuals. DuPont will vigorously defend against any and all such lawsuits not based upon valid science. At the same time, DuPont will continue its commitment to provide good jobs with good wages and benefits in our local community," according to DuPont's statement.
The statement, from Dan Turner, spokesman for the company, said the settlement, reached almost 10 years ago in the class-action lawsuit against DuPont allowed the company and its employees "to put the priority on making some reasonable changes based upon valid science while ending ongoing contentious litigation." Among other things, DuPont agreed to install filtration facilities in the six affected water districts: Little Hocking, Belpre, Lubeck, Tuppers Plains, Pomeroy and Mason County.
DuPont officials said now that the science panel has completed its work, "DuPont will, with the advice of independent doctors provide medical monitoring for eligible class members that will extend many years into the future. In addition, DuPont remains committed to its ongoing program of providing state of the war filtering systems for area water systems to insure that C8 is filtered out of the drinking water. DuPont has had measures in place for many decades to minimize worker exposure to C8. DuPont has reduced total C8 emissions bymore than 99 percent at Washington Works and by more than 98 percent in our global manufacturing operations since 2000. We also have developed and commercialized new technologies to make our products without using C8," according to the company's statement.
The science panel previously reported probable links between C8 exposure and kidney cancer, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy-induced hypertension, including preeclampsia. No link with C8 was found for Parkinson's disease, non-malignant liver disease, non-malignant kidney disease, osteoarthritis, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, childhood and adult infections such as influenza, neurodevelopmental disorders in children, stroke, and auto-immune diseases of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type I juvenile diabetes, Type II diabetes, Crohn's disease, and multiple sclerosis, birth defects, pregnancy loss, or pre-term birth or low birthweight.
According to plaintiffs' attorneys, "for purposes of the pending class-action lawsuit, any diseases which the panel has not linked to C8 cannot be the subject of PFOA-based exposure claims by the lawsuit's class members." Medical monitoring will allow doctors to conduct procedures to identify the PFOA linked diseases in the population, according to plaintiffs' attorneys.
In reaction to the C8 Science Panel's findings Monday, class counsel Robert Bilott stated, " We can't undo the damage that the pollution caused, but fortunately the lawsuit forced DuPont to get the poison out of the water pending final results from the panel. Now the residents can be tested for the C8 linked diseases, and hopefully quick diagnosis and treatment will increase recovery rates. As attorneys, we are proud that the truth has been uncovered. Our next step will be to seek fair compensation for those who have been harmed because of DuPont's contamination of their drinking water with PFOA."
C8, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, is a man-made chemical used in manufacturing products including nonstick cookware, protective finishes on carpets, and water-resistant clothing. As part of the 2005 class action lawsuit settlement a three-member science panel consisting of three independent epidemiologists was named to determine whether there was a probable link between C8 exposure and human disease. Nearly 70,000 people in the six affected water districts who were part of the lawsuit were tested and had medical histories taken in addition to several other studies including DuPont employees.
Science panelist Kyle Steenland told those attending Monday's press conference there were a "large number of (high cholesterol) cases" among the health study participants. High cholesterol, he noted can be a factor in other heart-related diseases.
"There were a fairly large number of cross-sectional studies, kids and adults, indicating higher PFOA exposure was linked to higher cholesterol levels, these were accompanied by reports in the literature when followed over time," Steenland said. "Our data showed 800 people in the health project re-tested five years later. The levels were dropping after the filters were installed, there were significant drops in cholesterol levels."
Joe Kiger, one of the original class action litigants, asked how the panel could, on one hand find a link between C8 and high cholesterol, but find no link with heart disease or strokes.
"Cholesterol levels are just one factor, there are others and the higher levels may not be enough to see in other disease. It is a bit of a paradox," Steenland said.
Panel members said those noted were people who had been diagnosed and were taking medication for high cholesterol.
Overall the panelists said the process went fairly smoothly although they understood everyone becoming frustrated over the results taking so long.
"We just didn't feel the health project data was adequate and we needed to do additional testing," Steenland said.
Panelists noted the uniqueness and scope of the project.
"We had to collect a lot of data and it did take a lot of time," said panelist Tony Fletcher. "We reviewed 40 different diseases. It was a mammoth undertaking."
Fletcher noted the levels of C8 in the blood of those in the class is "going down rapidly" since the filters were installed and should reach the point where they are the same as rest of the U.S. within the next few years.