Oct. 01--A chemical used to make Teflon could delay puberty in girls exposed to it, a new study says.
Scientists studying the effects of the chemical, called C8, found a link between high exposure levels and a four-month delay in the average onset of puberty among girls. They found no change among boys.
A panel of three scientists is investigating the health effects of C8, also called perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, as part of a $107 million lawsuit settlement between DuPont and customers of water districts in West Virginia and Ohio near a plant that makes Teflon.
Water in the districts' wells was found to be contaminated with C8. DuPont has since paid to install filters at the water plants, but it contends that no ill health effects have been directly linked to the chemical. The company has agreed to phase out C8 by 2015.
Terry Fletcher, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in England, said studies of about 6,000 adolescents from the region showed a statistical link between high levels of C8 and delayed puberty in girls.
He cautioned that researchers do not know whether C8 directly causes the delay in puberty or whether the onset of puberty causes the body to change the way it concentrates the chemical.
"We need to be careful to remember that the causality could happen in either direction," he said.
Two other studies, including one at the University of Cincinnati, have shown the opposite result: a quicker onset of puberty among girls exposed to C8. The Cincinnati study measured puberty by the onset of breast growth, Fletcher said, while his study tracked the start of menstruation.
"We had some discussion about whether that was necessarily inconsistent," he said.
DuPont issued a state-
ment pointing out that the latest study does not say
C8 causes a delay in pu-
berty and highlighted the conflicting studies.
"This study is designed to look for a statistical association, and cannot determine whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship," the statement said.
Robert Bilott, the lead attorney for the people exposed to C8, said this is one more piece of evidence that the science panel will consider before it determines whether there is a probable link between C8 and health problems. If the panel makes that determination, DuPont would pay for medical monitoring of about 80,000 people exposed to the chemical.
Earlier, the science panel reported links between C8 exposure and birth defects and changes in levels of three proteins important to the immune system. A science panel told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the chemical meets the criteria for a "likely" human carcinogen. The EPA is continuing to study C8.
Tests of the Little Hocking Water Association's four wells in 2006 showed C8 at levels between 1 part per billion to 14 parts per billion. All are above a drinking-water limit of 0.5 parts per billion that the EPA set in November '06.
Little Hocking is across the Ohio River from DuPont's Washington Works plant. DuPont has used the chemical for more than 50 years to help make nonstick and stain- and water-resistant coatings for products including pans, carpets and clothes.
The chemical has been found worldwide including in newborns, dolphins and polar bears.
This clarifies an earlier version of the story.
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