C8 Science Panel logo The C8 Science Panel

The Science Panel

C8 is a name given to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a man-made chemical used in manufacturing products that we use everyday. Some applications include non-stick cookware, protective finishes on carpets, and water-resistant clothing.

DuPont's West Virginia Washington Works Plant in southwest Parkersburg released C8 into the air and Ohio River from the 1950s until the early 2000s. 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, as have been any significant releases into the Ohio River. Carbon filters are being used to remove C8 from water systems near the plant.

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, was set up and 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 was made up of: Dr. Tony Fletcher of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Dr. David Savitz of Brown University in Providence, 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.

We came 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; and remained independent and neutral throughout. The settlement paid for our work but the parties to that case did not direct what we did or how we did it. We had no belief ahead of time that C8 does or doesn't affect human health.

The Court Settlement and the establishment of the Science Panel were described in a joint statement from the Settling Parties: Background Information on Settlement and Science Panel.

Stage I: Gather Information

The first stage in our work has been to compile what was 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 were conducted in the communities in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

These are described in the section C8 Science Panel Studies.

As these studies were completed, we shared the results with the Court overseeing the settlement, the community of the Mid-Ohio Valley, and scientists. These results became available at different times, not all at once, and so were shared as they became available. The Panel emphasized that these results provided background and valuable information for making an evaluation of whether there is or is not a probable link between C8 exposure and any disease, but that evaluation was 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 was to make a judgment regarding the evidence linking C8 to the risk of disease. The Settlement Agreement between the plaintiffs and the defendant (DuPont) required that the Science Panel determine whether there is or is not a probable link between C8 exposure and any disease. This determination was 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. Once all the studies concerned with a specific disease were completed, shared with the court, and made public, we combined 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.

The research results and the assessment of whether there is a probable link were completed at different times for different illnesses. For each health problem of concern, we first generated the research results, and then in a separate activity, evaluated all the evidence to make a judgment regarding whether or not there is a probable link between C8 exposure and that illness.