Chemical found in residents' blood linked to health issues - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Chemical found in residents' blood linked to health issues

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DECATUR, AL (WAFF) -

Six years after a Decatur company accidentally spilled chemicals into the city's sewer system, government officials told residents in parts of Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone Counties that public drinking water is safe.

They also report an elevated level of a chemical calls PFOA or C8 in the blood tests conducted on 153 residents. The tests showed two-to-four times more C8 than normal. C8 is one of the chemicals that was spilled.

During a class action lawsuit involving Dupont in West Virginia, both sides agreed to have a panel of scientists research the possible effects of the chemical. In the largest study done on C8 covering 60,000 people, the panel linked the chemical substance to several diseases and conditions including hypertension brought on during pregnancy, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and high cholesterol. The scientists called the connections "probable links," meaning more likely than not. But no direct cause was established. Dupont settled out of court.

For the investigation concerning the Decatur spill, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry evaluated the blood samples. An ATSDR official spoke about the findings from the West Virginia case.

"This study is an epidemiological study. And it looks at a large cross section of people, about 60,000 people. And it determines there seems to be a relationship between PFC's and some of these disease entities, but whether the PFC's is the direct cause of these diseases has not yet been determined. And it really is a study that helps point us in the direction for us to do additional studies to better answer those questions at this time," said ATSdR official Bruce Tierney.

Environmental Protection Agency officials said the higher C8 levels found in blood samples may not be directly connected to the chemical spill in Decatur. There are three companies that have historically used or manufactured the chemical in Decatur and discharged wastewater to Decatur Utilities. They are 3M, Daikin American, and Toray Carbon Fibers America. An EPA spokeswoman said the company that reported their spill in 2007 is claiming business confidentiality. She would not name the company.

To view the ATSDR report, click here (PDF).

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