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W. Virginia, Ohio Families Face Toxic Teflon Chemical Risk

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, March 19, 2009

Washington, DC - A March 10 agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. over drinking water contamination around the company’s Parkersburg, WV, plant leaves people in the area exposed to dangerous levels of the Teflon chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a probable carcinogen and reproductive system toxin also known as C8.

“The new EPA-DuPont agreement does not reflect the most recent science and falls far short of what is required to protect thousands of families who live near the DuPont facility,” Environmental Working Group executive director Richard Wiles said in a letter today to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. “The more scientists study PFOA, the stronger the case becomes for extremely strict limits on human exposure.”

PFOA is a highly persistent environmental toxin that accumulates in the human body over many years. EWG estimates that people who consistently drink tap water contaminated with .4 ppb of PFOA could develop PFOA blood levels 100 times higher – in other words, up to 40 ppb.

Two recent peer-reviewed studies found that PFOA blood levels of 4 to 5 ppm, the level found in the general U.S. population, were associated with reduced fertility in women and sperm viability in men.

The new EPA/Dupont agreement requires the company to offer water treatment or bottled water to people living near the Parkersburg plant whose tap water or well water is found to contain .4 parts per billion (ppb) or more of PFOA. The agreement stems from an EPA investigation that determined that people in the area had extraordinarily high blood levels of PFOA, an industrial chemical found to have been improperly discharged from the Parkersburg plant for decades.

Wiles wrote Jackson that the deal “would likely give a false sense of security to thousands of West Virginians and Ohioans whose drinking water has been polluted by toxic discharges from the Parkersburg facility.”

Moreover, Wiles said, the PFOA level EPA is permitting in West Virginia is likely to be embraced by water utilities nationwide, raising the likelihood that millions of Americans would be exposed to excessive amounts of the contaminant.

“We urge you,” Wiles wrote Jackson, “to direct the appropriate officials at EPA to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment for long-term exposure to PFOA, and to develop a fully protective national safe drinking water standard that takes into account the bioaccumulative properties of this cancer-causing, developmentally-disruptive toxicant.”


EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.