Will Cape Fear Become the Next Flint, Michigan as DuPont Dumps GenX Into River?
By Josh Gay
In February, DuPont and its spinoff Chemours finally agreed to pay out the $670+ million settlement stemming from their toxic chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), commonly known as C8. The chemical was shown to cause kidney, pancreatic, liver and testicular cancer, high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), pregnancy issues, including preeclampsia, thyroid disease and ulcerative colitis in thousands of cases.
The carcinogenic chemical was used to manufacture Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), known as Teflon. Teflon is most commonly used as a non-stick coating found in cookware. But by 2003, DuPont had dumped almost 2.5 million pounds of C8 from its Washington Works plant into the mid-Ohio River Valley area. To date, the chemical has been found in drinking water in 27 states. This all took place even 53 years after DuPont classified C8 as a toxin.
Now, it appears that the chemical that DuPont and Chemours have relied on to replace C8 in Teflon may be just as bad. Known as GenX, the new chemical has been known by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to have negative health effects since at least 2006. Yet, the unregulated chemical has been continuously dumped into the Cape Fear River in North Carolina since 2009. Ring of Fire's Mike Papantonio addressed DuPont's deception with Ed Schultz on "News with Ed":
In response to the C8 lawsuits, companies like Chemours, Dow and 3M sought to develop chemicals with a similar composition to C8, but with a shorter molecule chain, in hopes it would be less harmful to humans. The smaller chain allows the body to pass the chemical quicker. However, it appears to still be quite dangerous. Even in its consent order, the EPA noted that GenX shows many of the same harmful properties as C8.
In a series The Teflon Toxin published by The Intercept, it was revealed that DuPont filed numerous reports confirming the risks of GenX. In experiments, rats were shown to develop cancer, kidney and liver disease, various tumors, as well as other negative health effects, all very similar to the effects of C8. Still, DuPont's researchers claim that "these tumor findings are not considered relevant for human risk assessment."
Detailing just how terrible GenX can be, The Columbus Dispatch reported in February that:
"From 2006 through 2013, DuPont filed reports with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its testing of the substances that make up GenX. In 2006, DuPont reported that a 1963 study of those substances showed that adult rats given 7,500 milligrams died gasping, convulsive deaths within three hours. Those that received smaller doses survived with slightly enlarged livers. A 2013 report stated that rats given a much lower dose of GenX developed tumors in some organs. The report stated that "these tumor findings are not considered relevant for human risk assessment."
Though DuPont and Chemours had previously assured regulators that GenX would not enter the environment, researchers have found the chemical in large quantities in North Carolina's water supply. Wilmington's The StarNews has reported that "researchers had found GenX in the Cape Fear River on three separate occasions in recent years. In 2013-14, a team of researchers and scientists found a GenX average of 631 parts per trillion, or nine times the advisory level for C8, at [the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority's] water intake on the river."
Unfortunately, because of the diminutive size of the molecule chain and the fact that Chemours and DuPont kept the chemical composition of GenX secret for many years, there is no way for a utility company to effectively filter GenX out of a water supply, meaning as many as 250,000 residents along the Cape Fear River could be consuming the harmful chemical.
Meanwhile, Dutch officials are opening their own investigation into GenX, as the chemical has been found in the Merwede River, which provides drinking water to approximately 750,000 people. The Dutch public health institute, RIVM is currently conducting a study into the long-term effects of the chemical and hopes to present some of its findings at a conference in August.
While it may seem that a massive lawsuit, fines from the government, and evidence that people are dying from a product would discourage a company from continuing to produce harmful chemicals and release them into the waterways, it is evident that it just isn't enough. Even after spending more than $60 billion in the wake of the Gulf Oil Spill, BP is still taking major risks because they returned to profitability just six years after the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Quite frankly, the fines and settlements just are not enough. Now that the Trump administration's insists on rolling back regulations, companies like DuPont and Chemours have zero reason to change their behavior. Papantonio said that tougher measures are needed:
"These corporate thugs can kill thousands of people and keep earning millions of dollars and never see the inside of a prison. They act like criminals and should be treated as such. I have fought DuPont before and I will keep fighting until they stop poisoning innocent people."
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Ring of Fire.
By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
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