Independent Science Panel Links Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) Exposure to Thyroid Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
On Monday, July 30th 2012 a panel of three independent epidemiologists announced that the weight of available scientific evidence demonstrates that Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) found in the drinking water in several WV and Ohio communities is linked to both thyroid disease and ulcerative colitis. The DuPont plant is located in Wood County WV.
This announcement follows a class action lawsuit against DuPont in 2005 arising from their contamination of local drinking water supplies with PFOA (also known as C-8 or C8). Under that class action settlement, DuPont and the residents agreed to form the C8 Science Panel to answer questions about C-8 exposure and disease based upon reliable science. In April of this year, the panel linked C-8 exposure to kidney and testicular cancer in humans who were exposed to the toxic chemical. The panel had previously linked pregnancy-induced hypertension, including preeclampsia, to PFOA exposure.
In addition to linking thyroid disease and ulcerative colitis to C-8 exposure, today's reports eliminated several diseases from the rapidly growing list of C-8 linked diseases. The dismissed diseases include stroke, influenza, asthma, chronic obstructive airway disease, lupus, type1 diabetes, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis and neurodevelopmental disorders in children (including attention deficit disorders and learning disabilities). The panel expects to submit its final report in October 2012.
The ongoing studies are reviewing all known human health effects that have been associated with exposure to ammonium perfluorooctanoate, also known as C-8, C8, or PFOA.
To begin the study, approximately 70,000 residents who had been exposed to PFOA in their drinking water voluntarily provided blood samples and other health information through a C8 Health Project implemented in the six affected water districts by Brookmar, Inc. Brookmar, Inc. is operated by prominent community medicine experts A. Paul Brooks, M.D. (former director of physician services for Camden Clark Hospital) and Arthur Maher (former CEO of St. Joseph's Hospital). Pursuant to court approval and the agreement of all parties, Brookmar gathered health and blood data from the exposed residents. The acquired data was simultaneously submitted to the C8 Science Panel.
In addition to data acquired from the exposed residents, the panel considered all previously existing and currently developing scientific literature to reach its conclusions.
The C8 Science Panel has been releasing its findings on PFOA health effects through a series of final Probable Link Reports attached below. In December 2011, the Panel released its first set of reports, focusing on reproductive outcomes only. At that time, the Panel found a Probable Link between PFOA exposure and pregnancy-induced hypertension, including preeclampsia. In April, the Panel released its second series of Probable Link Reports and found PFOA exposure to be linked with kidney and testicular cancer.
These latest findings by the Panel added links to thyroid disease and ulcerative colitis. The Panel plans to release its final Probable Link Reports in October on the other health endpoints still under investigation (including, but not limited to, lipids and heart disease). Based on the links to serious human disease, DuPont's class action agreement requires DuPont to pay up to an additional $235 million to fund a medical monitoring program for the exposed residents included in the settlement class previously approved by the court. The program will help detect the onset of PFOA-linked diseases among the approximately 7080,000 residents who are class members as defined in the settlement agreement.
A C8 Medical Panel will be charged with determining what type of medical monitoring program is appropriate for the class members based upon the C8 Science Panel's Probable Link findings on disease. After the initial probable link findings were confirmed by the C8 Science Panel, the parties jointly selected the C8 Medical Panel pursuant to their court endorsed settlement agreement. The members of the C8 Medical Panel are Dr. Dean Baker, Dr. Melissa McDiarmid, and Dr. Harold Sox. Beyond medical monitoring, class members who suffer from linked diseases are now permitted to move forward with personal injury (or related wrongful death) claims against DuPont arising from their discharging of the known carcinogen into their water and air.
DuPont's class action settlement agreement with the court-approved class counsel provides that DuPont will not dispute that PFOA can cause the specific diseases, which the C8 Science Panel has linked to PFOA exposure (now including thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and pregnancy induced hypertension, including preeclampsia).
In reaction to the C-8 Science Panel's findings today, one of the attorneys representing the residents, Robert Bilott with the law firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister in Cincinnati, stated: "As attorneys for the affected residents, we commend the Science Panel for their continuing hard work to resolve these very important and difficult scientific questions for the community. We are confident that the Panel is working diligently to alert the community by the end of October regarding any additional serious health risks that they may face because of their exposure to PFOA-contaminated drinking water."
Based on the panel's undisputed scientific findings, DuPont will continue to fund the state-of-the-art water treatment systems that were installed under the settlement to reduce PFOA levels in the impacted public and private drinking water supplies.