Occupational & Environmental Medicine
Community Exposure to Perfluorooctanate
Précis of Study
This project is a partnership between environmental health researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, local health care providers at Grand Central Family Medicine, Parkersburg WV, and the Decatur Community Association, Cutler OH, to address exposure of residents in the Little Hocking water district to perfluorooctanoates (C8). Little Hocking is a village in the Appalachian region near Parkersburg WV, located directly across the Ohio River and downwind of a plant with significant discharges of C8 to air, ground, and water. Residents of Little Hocking have known exposures to C8 through air, residential drinking water, domestic well water, and community water; some residents have occupational exposure (with possible domestic household contamination). There are other potential exposure sources. C8 is known to be very persistent in both the environment and in humans (serum half-life approximately 4 years). C8 can be toxic to the liver, causes testicular cancer and mammary hyperplasia and may have reproductive effects in experimental animals. Human data is limited but possible adverse effects have been reported from occupational exposure. Events surrounding C8 contamination in Little Hocking and surrounding areas have led to substantial community skepticism and lack of trust.Through this project the partners will measure C8 in a stratified sample of residents and identify the relative importance of the various potential exposure sources. To help assess risk, C8 levels in residents will be compared with those in other population and occupational groups. We will determine if there is an association between higher C8 levels and biomarkers of early toxic effects.. This information will be shared with the community and, if necessary, an implementation plan will be developed to reduce exposure. A community participation model will be used to involve stakeholders at all stages. Two-way communication, and education of community residents and local health practitioners will be emphasized. The effectiveness of communication and education and the level of participation of residents will be evaluated. Outcome measures to be evaluated include the reduction of levels of blood C8, and whether community trust is restored through an independent participatory study.
Edward A. Emmett,
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine