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Study Shows Dupont's Teflon Products Are Damaging Fetuses in the Womb

Wilmington (Del.) News Journal August 23, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: Chemicals used in stick-and stain-resistant products are reaching children in the womb and may be tied to "small decreases" in the size and weight of newborns, two studies by Johns Hopkins University researchers indicate.]

By Jeff Montgomery, The News Journal

Chemicals used in stick- and stain-resistant products are reaching children in the womb and may be tied to "small decreases" in the size and weight of newborns, two studies by Johns Hopkins University researchers indicate.

The findings from the University's School of Public Health are the latest in a growing wave of scientific investigations, triggered by concern over the discovery that perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoate acids, called PFOA, are present in human and animal blood around the globe.

Both chemicals are used in or associated with production of thousands of consumer products, from nonstick cookware to carpets, food wrapping, clothing and electrical equipment. The DuPont Co. is a global leader in use and development of the materials, with production sites in Deepwater, N.J., and elsewhere around the country under close scrutiny or targeted in lawsuits.

In the most recent Johns Hopkins study, released last week, scientists found that PFOA and PFOS levels in umbilical cord blood were associated with small decreases in head size and body weight in a study of 300 samples.

"These small, but significant, differences in head circumference and body weight provide the first evidence for a possible association between exposures to PFOS and PFOA and fetal growth," wrote Benjamin Apelberg, lead author of the study and a research associate in the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Epidemiology.

A recent study of newborns in Denmark found similar results for PFOA, but not PFOS, said Lynn R. Goldman, a study co-author.

"It's very unfortunate, because one of the most cherished members of any family is a newborn," said Harry Dietzler, an attorney who represented residents in a class-action lawsuit focused on drinking water contamination by a DuPont plant that uses C8, or PFOA. DuPont settled the case with an agreement that included hundreds of millions of dollars for health studies and monitoring.

There are no known health effects from PFOA, and "this study does not change our position," said Dupont spokesman Dan Turner.

The Johns Hopkins researchers acknowledged possible limitations on the conclusions that could be drawn from the study.

Another study published by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found links between PFOA and PFOS in the blood and levels of cholesterol and some liver enzymes.

An EPA advisory panel has tentatively labeled PFOA a "probable" cancer-causing agent.

Still to come are findings based on health screenings from tens of thousands of West Virginia and Ohio residents, produced as part of a class-action lawsuit settlement against DuPont.

Meanwhile, New Jersey recently directed DuPont to study groundwater contamination around its Chambers Works Plant, near the foot of the Delaware Memorial Bridge in Deepwater, N.J.

"This stuff needs to be banned now," said Tracy Carluccio, with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network conservation group. "The Johns Hopkins report is very troubling."

Contact Jeff Montgomery at 678-4277 or

Copyright 2007, The News Journal.

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