WASHINGTON (WTAP) - UPDATE: 06/21/18 8:45 A.M.
A bombshell federal report raises new questions about the safety of your drinking water.
Turn on your faucet, and in many parts of the country, you could be exposed to a family of dangerous chemicals. Known collectively as PFAS and largely the byproduct of Teflon manufacturing and a foam used to fight jet fuel fires, they contaminate water sources from the East Coast to Alaska.
Prolonged exposure carries the risk of cancer and other health problems. And now, scientists with the Environmental Working Group said a new federal report released Wednesday suggests safe levels may be 10 times lower than current Environmental Protection Agency standards.
West Virginia lawmakers from both sides of the aisle recently demanded the study's release after media reports surfaced indicating the White House tried to bury it.
"I'm glad it's out in the open," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., "we can diagnose it, and hopefully make sure that we're preventing any kind of health incidences from too much of this chemical in the water."
Capito said she needs to dig deeper into the report before demanding action.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said if his team reaches the same conclusion as environmental watchdogs, and the Trump administration won't reconsider what's safe, Congress will.
"We've got to make sure that the human aspect of this, safety to all humans is the first and foremost thing in consideration," he said.
Congressman David McKinley, R-W.Va., represents northern West Virginia in Congress.
Asked about the suggestion that this family of chemicals could be toxic at levels 10 times lower than current standards, he said he hasn't read the full 852-page report yet, but made his skepticism clear.
Just over a year ago, the company that took over the former DuPont facility in Parkersburg, West Virginia settled lawsuits with near-by affected residents for more than $650-million. A study surrounding that case figured significantly in the report written by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
The safety levels in this report are designed to guide health professionals and not to "support regulatory action." But, Congress or the White House could use it as a guide rewrite the requirements for testing drinking water, and cleaning up contamination when it's found.
A report on the effects of C8 and related chemicals, released Wednesday at the urging of federal lawmakers, references, among others, a study done of local residents nearly a decade ago.
It included the findings of the C8 Science Panel between 2007-2012, that PFOA, or C8, along with PFOS, is tied to liver damage, increases in cholesterol levels, thyroid disease and an increased risk of fertility declines.
The report, by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Control, also includes similar findings, including decreased antibody response to vaccines, for a number of related chemicals.
And it noted data from a recent study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which concluded that PFOA and PFOS probably causes cancer in humans.
In essence, the report is a summary of several studies that have been made locally and in other parts of the country, on the effects of perflourinated chemicals during the past decade.
One other notable finding is that the serum levels of PFOA and PFOS in people tested have declined dramatically since 2000.
It says that's a reflection of the decreased use of those chemicals in manufacturing during that time.
Dr. Paul Brooks, who oversaw testing for the Science Panel's studies, said he had not seen the report when contacted Wednesday afternoon.
There had been no reaction as of Wednesday from Chemours, which now operates the unit where C8 was used by DuPont Washington Works in the manufacture of non-stick products such as Teflon.
An environmental group says the report shows the minimum risk level for C8/PFOA should be reduced substantially from .07 parts per billion, a level set by the U.S. EPA just two years ago.
“This study confirms that the EPA’s guidelines for PFAS levels in drinking water woefully underestimate risks to human health,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., senior science advisor at the Environmental Working Group. “We urge EPA to collect and publish all water results showing PFAS contamination at any level, so Americans across the country can take immediate steps to protect themselves and their families.”
UPDATE: 6/20/2018, 12:49 P.M.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released a federal study on drinking water contamination in the U.S. caused by Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), including substances like C8, once produced at DuPont Washington Works, and still known to be present in the Ohio River.
The entire 852-page report, titled "Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls," can be viewed in a .PDF document in the "Related Links" section of this story.
Ohio's two U.S. Senators have joined those from West Virginia in calling for the release of a study on perflourinated chemicals.
A letter signed by Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, along with Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, voices concern the EPA has reportedly tried to block the report's release.
All four joined Senators from other states in signing a letter addressed to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Dept. of Health And Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
The letter cites recent media reports saying the report states exposure to levels of PFAS chemicals lower than previously known pose a health risk.
The chemical family known as PFAS includes substances such as C8, once produced at DuPont Washington Works, and still known to be present in the Ohio River.
West Virginia's senators are calling on the Trump administration to release a study on toxic chemicals that DuPont used to make Teflon and other non-stick products at a factory in the state.
A Politico article this week says the government is block the study because it would be a "public relations nightmare." DuPont is already facing thousands of lawsuits from people living near the company's Washington Works plant near Parkersburg.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that the study by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests humans can be harmed by much lower levels of PFAS than the EPA has advised before.
Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito are pressing Trump cabinet members to release the data.