Brooks: PFAS advisory levels must drop

Doctor from C8 study pleased with release of federal report

PARKERSBURG — A local physician who was instrumental in the C8 health study and has warned of the dangers of it and related chemicals said he feels “vindicated” by the federal report on the substances released this week.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry on Wednesday released a draft toxicological profile of perfluoroalkyls, man-made chemicals, including C8, that have been found in air, water, soil and food at various locations around the world. Pressure had been mounting for the report to be released after a Freedom of Information Act request uncovered an email in which a White House official referred to the report’s findings as a “potential public relations nightmare.”

Among the findings were proposed “minimal risk levels” that are much lower than the lifetime health advisory the EPA announced in 2016. Dr. Paul Brooks, of Vienna, said the findings were in line with what he expected and the current health advisory is “way too high.”

Brooks said studies related to the effect of C8 on cholesterol levels show the substance is “biologically active” at a concentration of just 5 parts per billion in the bloodstream.

“If they (regulatory agencies) do what they’re supposed to do, they’ll keep dropping those limits,” Brooks said. “It’s obvious … that the amount that’s going to (eventually) be recommended in warm-blooded animals is zero.”

An EPA spokesperson said the ATSDR report will be considered as the agency evaluates C8, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS.

“EPA is committed to evaluating PFOA and PFOS under the regulatory determination process using the best available science,” the spokesperson said via email. “As a part of the evaluation, EPA will be reviewing all newly available scientific information, including the ATSDR report. EPA is taking steps to accelerate the determination process before the existing statutory deadline.”

PFOA and PFOS are among more than 90 chemicals on the EPA’s most recent Contaminant Candidate List. The agency must make regulatory determinations on at least five of the contaminants by 2021.

A spokeswoman for Chemours, the DuPont spinoff that now owns the Washington Works facility in Wood County where C8 was used for years in the Teflon-manufacturing process, said the company “will be reviewing the findings and working with regulators to determine any appropriate next steps.”

C8 and related chemicals have been used by multiple industries in products that include firefighting foam, paper and cardboard packaging, carpet and more.

“Now they’ve got a world infected with these toxic chemicals,” Brooks said.

The lifetime health advisory announced in 2016 was 70 parts per trillion, established to protect vulnerable populations such as developing fetuses and breastfeeding babies.

The provisional minimum risk level identified for intermediate (15 to 364 days) oral exposure was listed in units of milligrams/kilograms/day.

Asked about the relationship between the two units of measurement, the Office of Communications for the federal Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Environmental Health and the ATSDR said via email that the MRLs and health advisories are “two different tools that are used in different situations.” The MRL is a “daily dose,” while the health advisory, in units like parts per trillion, is a “unit of concentration.”

“An MRL is an estimate of the amount of a chemical a person can eat, drink or breathe each day without a detectable risk to health,” the email says.

The MRLs carry no regulatory power by themselves. Health professionals may want to examine higher levels of exposure more closely, but “it does not mean that people will become sick from those exposures,” the response says.

Health advisories also are non-regulatory but “provide technical information to states, agencies and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methodologies and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination,” the email continues.

Using a method described by the EPA, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group converted the daily dose measure into parts per trillion. The C8 level equated to about 11 parts per trillion, according to Olga Naidenko, the group’s senior science adviser.

Brooks warned that even with carbon filtration systems, like those in place in Vienna, Belpre and Little Hocking, C8 remains in a person’s body for years, degrading by about half every four years.

“You’re not out of the woods until that stuff is out of your system,” he said.

The companies that used the chemicals should set up medical monitoring for anyone who has PFAS detectable in their blood, Brooks said.

“The industry needs to do it because they’re the ones that poisoned everybody,” he said. “Early diagnostics almost always predicts a better chance for a cure.”


For a Closer Look at the Report

* The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s draft toxicological profile of perfluoroalkyls can be viewed online at https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp200.pdf