GenX: Exposure Study Results Released In Wilmington

Nov 14, 2018

This week participants in a GenX exposure study began receiving their test results. Some 345 New Hanover County residents took part in the study, giving blood, urine, and tap water samples late last year.  The  North Carolina State researchers behind the study are in Wilmington this week to explain the results.

Almost 100 people attended the first of three Wilmington-area community meetings to discuss the test results Tuesday night at Cape Fear Community College.

(scroll down for statement from Chemours)

John Wolfe was there. He received his test results just hours before the meeting.

“I don't know, you know, I’m concerned. There's some fear in there. There's definitely a bitterness and an anger that this could have been prevented and just because some unscrupulous company decided that it would be worth their profit to, to manufacture these. Now it's suddenly my problem.”

(Meeting SFX)

“So a PFAS stands for per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and this is a family of chemicals. GenX is just one example of PFAS….”

Researchers from N.C. State say blood samples of 345 New Hanover County residents test positive for several PFAS, but not GenX.

They found several newly identified PFAS substances, including Nafion byproduct 2, PFO4DA, PFO5DoDA and Hydro-EVE in 99, 98, 98 and 76 percent of the blood samples taken, respectively.

These compounds, they say, are unique to Wilmington blood and are not found through similar tests in other parts of the state and country.

Jane Hoppin of N.C. State directs the GenX study.

“I think we were most surprised at the elevated levels of PFOA and PFAS and the other historically used PFAS chemicals. We expected to see some of the new chemicals and so we were happy to see that those were coming down, but what we didn't expect to see that levels of PFOA and Wilmington were four times higher than the national average and that the levels of PFOS were twice the national average. So this suggests that there is some long-term exposure in Wilmington that's different than the rest of the U.S. population.”

Hoppin says it is unclear whether the newly identified PFAS compounds could be having an adverse effect on health.

Emily Donovan is the co-founder of Clean Cape Fear.

“I think tonight we learned that we have a health crisis and we really do, and to pretend that we don't because we feel like there's a lack of evidence. We need to stop doing that and I think that our officials need to get more aligned and the response they can give, especially when we look at what states have done or what other states have done concerning this topic.”

It’s important to note this is an exposure study, not a health study. And that for many of the chemical compounds, there is little information on any health impacts.

Ted Leopold is an attorney representing plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Chemours. He says the newly found chemical compounds could be more potentially dangerous than GenX.

“Very true. And not only on an individual basis, but when you combine them all together, who knows how harmful they can be, they can be exponentially more harmful. That is something that Chemours is going to have to answer to the citizens of all of North Carolina and especially those along the Cape Fear River.” 

Chemours did not respond to requests for comment. The results from the urine tests are expected in April. Vince Winkel, WHQR News.

STATEMENT FROM CHEMOURS Nov. 15.

“While we haven’t seen data from the NC State exposure study, we understand that there were no detections of GenX in the blood serum of any participant.  That is consistent with data from the recently completed NC DHHS research with neighbors of our Fayetteville site and over a decade of scientific data to support the safety profile of C3 dimer acid (also referred to as GenX).  These data show that the low levels of this chemical compound detected in the environment do not pose a risk to human health.

We understand the report includes findings related to PFOS and PFOA levels in blood serum.  The Fayetteville Works operation does not today nor has it in the past made or used PFOS in its manufacturing.  PFOA has not been manufactured at Fayetteville Works during Chemours’ ownership and operation of the facility or for several years before that.    Recent water sampling of the Cape Fear River confirms that the Fayetteville Works facility is not contributing any increase of PFOA to the River.    

We understand that the report includes findings related to other PFAS compounds.  Over the past year, Chemours has worked to develop more sensitive analytical methods to detect and quantify individual PFAS waste substances in water discharge.  Data from quarterly testing on our water discharge, including the PFAS waste substances, conducted on highly sensitive organisms (Daphnia), as well as a 2017 study on fathead minnow embryo-larval survival and teratogenicity, has not shown any toxic or harmful effects on these highly sensitive organisms. 

In August 2018, we completed AMES genetic effects assays on10 PFAS waste-substances.  An AMES genetic effects assay is a biological assay used to assess the potential of a chemical to cause mutations in genetic material. The assays were conducted by an independent laboratory using an internationally accepted testing guideline. None of the PFAS compounds tested to date displayed any potential to cause mutations or changes in genetic material. We remain committed to testing and creating further understanding of these and other substances.  We intend to review the newly available data and will take additional actions as appropriate

At Chemours, we take the concerns of the community seriously and have taken swift action to address them.  We remain on track to achieve our commitment of a 99% reduction in all PFAS emissions at our Fayetteville Works site by the end of 2019.”