DECATUR, Ala. - For all we know about pollution in the Tennessee River, there are still many important questions. Over the last two nights we’ve been breaking down a scientific report confirming the presence of various PFC compounds used to make non-stick coatings. But what's not yet known are the effects of these chemicals on people, aquatic life, and the environment, in general. That question promises to keep attorneys busy for years to come.
To the interested layman, there's little question the PFC compounds are harmful.
“It took 'em 30 years, 3 decades, to find out about PFOS and PFOA. Now we've got all these new ones plus these unidentified ones in the water and there are no regulations on them,” says Ron Mixon, spokesperson for Warriors for Clean Water.
The Environmental Protection Agency brought the issue to the forefront in this area last year when they revised their guidelines for the presence of the PFC compounds PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. The EPA maintains pregnant and nursing mothers should avoid water tainted with the compounds because of possible developmental issues associated with them.
But a spokesperson for the law firm representing 3M, one of the major producers the compounds, says it is their position the compounds are not harmful. In fact, Travis Carter tells us, “We don't believe there's any PFC related public health issue in Alabama, period." He followed up with an email listing a number of studies that question the effects of the compounds.
But Decatur attorney Carl Cole says there are dozens of reports to the contrary, listing case examples of PFC-related illnesses and injury. He says his concern is for what we revealed last night, the presence of newer and unclassified PFC compounds in the river. Cole says these new compounds are very similar to the older and more controversial compounds, but they're slightly different at the molecular level, which he says makes it even harder to filter them out of your drinking water.
The West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority just recently put a new GAC filtration system on line designed to filter out the PFOA and PFOS compounds. But there's growing doubt the new system will filter the newer compounds from the water.
What Many Experts Are Saying About the Health Effects, or Lack Thereof, Caused by Exposure to PFOA and PFOS
- “There currently is no established PFAS blood level at which a health effect is known nor is there a level that predicts health problems.” - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Fact Sheet, updated May 2017
- “Additional research in animals and humans is needed to better understand the potential adverse effects of PFCs for human health.” - National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fact Sheet, July 2016
- “Finding a measurable amount of PFCs in serum does not mean that the levels of PFCs cause an adverse health effect.” - CDC Fact Sheet, November 2009
- “…the available evidence is insufficient to conclude that a causal relationship has been established between PFOA or PFOS exposure and any immune condition in humans.” - “A Critical Review of Perfluorooctanoate and Perfluorooctanesulfonate Exposure and Immunological Health Conditions in Humans,” published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, Dr. Ellen T. Chang , et.al., 2016
- “Taken together, the epidemiologic evidence does not support the hypothesis of a causal association between PFOA or PFOS exposure and cancer in humans.” - “A Critical Review of Perfluorooctanoate and Perfluorooctanesulfonate Exposure and Cancer Risk in Humans,” published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, Dr. Ellen T. Chang, et. al., May 2014