(03/15/2007)
Ohio Valley communities where water is polluted with the toxic chemical C-8 have elevated levels of several cancers, according to a confidential WV state government analysis, now released.

The study was drafted a year ago by the state Department of Health and Human Resources, but Ken Ward, Jr. of the Charleston Gazette says it was never finalized or made public.

Ward reported yesterday that DHHR officials offered varying answers about why the study wasn't completed, and whether they actually planned to finish it.

Quoted was Chris Curtis, acting commissioner of DHHR's Bureau for Public Health - "I don't know that there was ever a conscious decision not to inform the public...It was one of those things that was simply put aside and never finished."

DHHR scientists used state cancer data to compare disease rates statewide with those in counties where water has been contaminated by C8, Ward reported.

Researchers found elevated rates of prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Wood and Jackson counties.

DHHR also said there were high rates of leukemia and skin cancer in Wood County, where a DuPont has discharged C-8 for many years.

The report cautioned "The analyses presented here establish only that the rates of certain cancers previously associated with occupational PFOA exposure are elevated in counties in which residents may have been exposed to PFOA via the water supply. They do not demonstrate a causal relationship between PFOA and individual cancer cases."

"These data do, however, establish the need for further examination of the impact of non-occupational exposures to PFOA on cancer incidence in communities," said the study.

DuPont has used C8 at its Washington Works chemical plant since the 1950s, a chemical used to make Teflon.

DuPont is spending several million dollars for an independent study on the health effects of thousands of Mid-Ohio Valley citizens.

They maintain the chemical has not been harmful.

The DHHR study was revealed, according to reporter Ward, only after a lawyer for Wood County residents who drank C8-contaminated water discovered it in state Department of Environmental Protection files and distributed it to various parties, including the Charleston Gazette.

Jessica Greathouse, DEP's communications officer, said that her agency "inadvertently disclosed" the draft report in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Ward reported after the Gazette began asking questions about the DHHR study, DEP officials contacted the residents' lawyer to try to retrieve the document and prevent its public disclosure.

DHHR's Curtis said that she could think of no real harm that would have come from releasing the study.

State epidemiologist Loretta Haddy, said that the plan was to add new data and publish the report.


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