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Johns Hopkins study: C8 exposure lowers birth weight, head size

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Newborns exposed to low levels of a chemical used to produce Teflon weigh slightly less and have slightly smaller heads than other babies, according to preliminary research conducted at Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Lynn Goldman, a professor at the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said new tests found ‘very small decreases’ in birth weight and head circumference.

The amounts of ammonium perfluorooctaonate, also known as C8 or PFOA, found in blood samples were ‘fairly low,’ she said. The highest levels were 7 parts per billion. That compares to the 5 ppb that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said average Americans have in their blood.

‘We think it is significant,’ Goldman told The Charleston Gazette. ‘If this is confirmed, it is important. It would say that there is a biological change that is going on.’

Goldman presented the preliminary findings of researchers from Johns Hopkins and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to a group of scholars and scientists last week. Results released last February showed C8 was detected in umbilical cord blood samples from 298 of the 300 babies tested.

DuPont has long maintained the chemical is not harmful. The company, which co-sponsored last week’s workshop, has used the chemical at its Washington Works plant near Parkersburg since the 1950s. C8 is used to produce the nonstick substance Teflon and a variety of other products, from flooring to clothing.

To settle a class-action lawsuit filed by West Virginia and Ohio residents, DuPont agreed to fund a separate health screening of up to 70,000 residents. The residents sued the company alleging that the chemical had contaminated their public and private water supplies.

Blood tests taken from the residents showed the average level of C8 in 30,629 people was 123 ppb. The median level was 48 ppb.

DuPont declined to comment on the preliminary findings, saying it would wait until the final results are published and can be reviewed by company officials.

‘As presented, the study does not change our position on PFOA,’ Robert Rickard, science director of health and environmental sciences at DuPont, said in a prepared statement.

DuPont spokesman Dan Turner noted that the study not only looked at C8 levels, but also levels of perfluorooctane sulphonate anion, which is found in polymers.