The Environmental Protection Agency said last week that by 2008 it expects a number of studies to shed light on the health effects of perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical deemed a likely carcinogen by the Science Advisory Board just a week earlier.
The announcement came at a meeting and information session June 8 on PFOA, a chemical used in the manufacture of fluoropolymers. The agency also said the industry, as a whole, ``has made significant progress'' in reducing PFOA emissions from manufacturing plants and the amount of PFOA in products.
DuPont Co. of Wilmington, Del., the only U.S. manufacturer of PFOA, said that, using the year 2000 as a base line, it will achieve a 98 percent reduction in plant emissions by the end of 2007 - beating by three years the voluntary 95 percent reduction EPA had set as a goal for 2010.
David Boothe, global business manager for DuPont Fluoroproducts, said in an interview that DuPont plans to introduce newly reformulated products this year that will reduce the PFOA content of fluoropolymers by at least 97 percent and fluorotelomers by at least 95 percent by the end of 2007.
``We think we will do considerably better than that,'' he said.
During the meeting, EPA said its Office of Research and Development will start PFOA biodegradation testing this summer and that ORD also is conducting toxicity testing and pharmacokinetics studies to understand better how PFOA migrates and gets into the bloodstream.
In addition, EPA said a multitiered toxicity study will be conducted under the National Toxicity Program of the Department of Health and Human Services and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will include PFOA and related chemicals in its 2007 National Biomonitoring Program report to be released next April.
``We are looking forward to receiving this data because [it] will provide a national base line for exposure to PFOA,'' EPA environmental protection specialist Mary Dominiak in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics said in making the presentation for the agency.
She also said during the meeting that ``it would be premature to draw any conclusions on risk'' of PFOA from the SAB panel review without more information and until studies under way are completed. EPA expects a large influx of data between now and 2008.
EPA currently has no information linking current levels of PFOA in people's bloodstreams to any adverse health effects, but PFOA has been found at low levels across the U.S. population. The material remains in the body for years and animal studies link PFOA to possible health risks.
However, the assertion by OPPT director Charles Auer that PFOA can accumulate in living things was challenged by Robert Rickard, director of health and environmental sciences at DuPont.