|The Science Panel|
DuPont's West Virginia Washington Works Plant in southwest Parkersburg released C8 into the air and Ohio River from the 1950s until recently. C8 reached drinking water supplies by entering the groundwater and was detected in six water districts near the DuPont plant in 2002. Air emissions were largely eliminated in the last few years, as have been any significant releases into the Ohio River. Carbon filters are being used to remove C8 from water systems near the plant.
C8 is the common name given to perfluorooctanoic acid, (sometimes called PFOA), a man-made chemical used in manufacturing products that we use everyday. Some applications include non-stick cookware, protective finishes on carpets, water-resistant clothing. A class action lawsuit brought by the communities against DuPont resulted in a Settlement Agreement in the Wood County Circuit Court; As part of that settlement, Brookmar; Inc., an independent company, conducted a yearlong survey (August 2005 - July 2006) called the C8 Health Project. The C8 Health Project gathered information through interviews and questionnaires and collected blood samples from about 69,000 people living near the Washington Works plant in West Virginia.
The settlement also established that a group of public health scientists would assess whether or not there is a probable link between C8 exposure and disease in the community. We were chosen as members of the Science Panel jointly by the lawyers for the community and DuPont. The panel is made up of: Dr. Tony Fletcher of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Dr. David Savitz of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and Dr. Kyle Steenland of Emory University in Atlanta. We were chosen because of our long experience in designing and carrying out environmental health studies and the view of the parties in the settlement that we would be able to objectively generate and evaluate the evidence.
For more details of the Court Settlement and the establishment of the Science Panel see the joint statement from the Settling Parties: Background Information on Settlement and Science Panel
You will find more details about us in the section Panel Members.
We come to this project as independent epidemiologists - scientists trained in gathering information to evaluate whether environmental factors may or may not be causing disease in groups of people. We are and will remain independent. The settlement is paying for our work but the parties to that case do not direct what we do or how we do it. We are and will remain neutral. We have no belief ahead of time that C8 does or doesn't affect human health.
Stage I: Gather Information
The first stage in our work has been to compile what is known from the research of others regarding health effects of C8 and to design and implement new research to help make an assessment of possible health effects. These new studies on exposure to C8 and health are being conducted in the communities in the Mid Ohio Valley.
These are described in the section C8 Science Panel Studies.
As these studies are completed, we will be sharing the results with the Court overseeing the settlement, the community of the Mid-Ohio Valley, and scientists. These results will become available at different times, not all at once, but will be shared as they become available. It is important to understand that these results will provide background and valuable information for making our evaluation of whether there is or is not a probable link between C8 exposure and any disease, but that evaluation will be a separate phase of the Science Panel's work.
Stage II. Evaluate Evidence on C8 Exposure and Health
Following the research studies the next task for the Science Panel is to make a judgment regarding the evidence linking C8 to the risk of disease. The Settlement Agreement between the plaintiffs and the defendant (Dupont) requires that the Science Panel determine whether there is or is not a probable link between C8 exposure and any disease. This determination is to be based on health research carried out by the Science Panel in the mid-Ohio Valley population exposed to C8, as well as other published scientific research which can help in that assessment. We have designed studies that are needed for our assessment. When all the studies concerned with a specific disease are completed, shared with the court, and made public, we will combine those findings with those of studies done by others, including laboratory research, to make our assessment of whether or not there is a probable link between C8 exposure and that illness.
It is important to note that the research results and the assessment of whether there is a probable link will be completed at different times for different illnesses. For each health problem of concern, we will first generate the research results, and then in a separate activity, evaluate all the evidence to make a judgment regarding whether or not there is a probable link between C8 exposure and that illness.