PFOAs Are Hazard To Human Health, Science Panel Warns

A panel of scientists warn that a chemical commonly used in Teflon and other substances may be hazardous to the human immune system, with the findings coming just days after a jury awarded a man $5.6 million for developing testicular cancer after being exposed to the chemical. 

An advisory panel for the National Toxicology Program (NTP) met on July 19, and agreed that there is evidence that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and C-8, can suppress the immune system and potentially cause hypersensitivity reactions in humans, according to minutes released from the meeting (PDF).

The panel voted 5 to 0 concluding that “PFOA is presumed to be an immune hazard to humans” based on human and animal studies.

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C-8 is a toxic, cancer-causing agent that stays in the environment indefinitely; never breaking down, according to allegations in the lawsuits filed by area residents.

Studies have linked C-8 exposure to kidney disease, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, testicular cancer, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and increases in cholesterol.

In a draft monograph (PDF) issued in June, the NTP warned that while emissions of the chemical has been reduced, it is still at detectable levels in the U.S. population and wide-spread exposure.

“The NTP concludes that PFOA is presumed to be an immune hazard to humans based on two separate lines of evidence: (1) the high level of evidence that PFOA suppressed the antibody response from animal studies and the moderate level of evidence from studies in humans, and (2) high level of evidence that PFOA increased hypersensitivity-related outcomes from animal studies and low level of evidence from studies in humans,” the monograph states.

The findings came about a week after a federal jury in Ohio awarded David Freeman $5.6 million in a DuPont lawsuit over the release of PFOA, or C-8, from a West Virginia plant into local waterways. Freeman claimed that exposure caused him to suffer testicular cancer.

Freeman is one of about 3,500 individuals residents around DuPont’s Washington Works Plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia who are pursuing a lawsuit over C-8 exposure against DuPont. Plaintiffs allege that they suffered various injuries due to the release of C-8, which is a chemical used to manufacture products like Teflon and Gore-Tex.

Plaintiffs claim that DuPont knew for years that C8 from the plant posed serious health problems for area residents, including a risk of cancer, birth defects and other complications. The company also allegedly did little to prevent numerous spills and releases into the environment, the lawsuits claim.

Since November 2013, all complaints filed throughout the federal court system have been centralized for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus in the Southern District of West Virginia.

Freeman’s case is the second to go to trial and the second victory for plaintiffs. In October, a jury awarded $1.6 million to Carla Bartlett, who developed kidney cancer after being exposed to the contaminated water.

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