In 2016, a team of university researchers discovered the chemical GenX in the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. The fear now is that hundreds of thousands of people have potentially been exposed to a toxic chemical in their drinking water that can cause various types of cancer and organ disease.
What is GenX
GenX is a chemical invented by DuPont to replace its highly toxic chemical C8, which was being used in products such as Teflon. DuPont stopped producing C8 after it was discovered that the company had discharged the chemical from its plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, into the air and waterway along the Ohio River.
DuPont’s unlawful discharge of 2.5 million pounds of C8 polluted the drinking water in six water districts in West Virginia and Ohio. The chemical was then unknowingly consumed by residents on a daily basis for many years.
After more than fifteen years of extensive litigation, six law firms (of which we are one) reached a $670 million settlement with DuPont to compensate approximately 3,500 people who suffered injuries such as kidney cancer, testicular cancer and ulcerative colitis.
The purpose of GenX, like C8, is to provide a slippery surface in products such as Teflon, fast food wrappers, waterproof clothing, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, carpet, dental floss, cosmetics, and hundreds of other products.
In July 2015, DuPont transferred its production of GenX to The Chemours Company.
What Do We Know About the GenX Lawsuits
Since 2009, DuPont and Chemours have been producing GenX at their 2,000-acre Fayetteville Works plant, situated along the Cape Fear River in Cumberland and Bladen Counties, North Carolina. The plant is located 100 miles upstream from Wilmington.
In 2016, GenX was found in the drinking water being supplied to the Brunswick County Public Utilities (BCPU), Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA), and Pender County Utilities, which combined serve 250,000 people in the counties of Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender. Unfortunately, there is no known process for filtering the chemical out of the water.
GenX is not regulated by federal or state governments. It is not known what the safe level, if any, is that can be consumed by humans or animals. What is known is that GenX is in the same family as DuPont’s previous chemical C8.
The safe level of C8 also is not known, but the EPA has put the figure at 0.07 parts per billion. Other scientists believe concentrations as low as 0.0003 parts per billion can be life threatening. Yet, GenX has been found in the CFPUA drinking water at an average of .631 parts per billion, which is at least nine times the advisory level for C8, and as much as 2,000 times the recommended level.
An independently appointed scientific panel found that C8 consumption is linked to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, pregnancy-induced hypertension (including preeclampsia), thyroid disease, and high cholesterol. For detailed information on C8, visit C8 Injuries and Dangers
In regard to GenX, DuPont filed sixteen reports between 2006 and 2013 with the EPA pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act regarding a “substantial risk of injury to health or the environment” related to GenX. These reports cite health issues with animals tested with GenX, including tumors in the liver, pancreas and testicles, as well as kidney disease, liver issues and uterine polyps.
In response to DuPont's reports, the EPA informed DuPont that it had concerns that GenX “will persist in the environment, could bioaccumulate, and be toxic to people, wild mammals, and birds. . . . [There] is high concern for possible environmental effects over the long-term . . . [and the] EPA has human health concerns.”
New Teflon Toxin Causes Cancer in Lab Animals
In one experiment, rats given various amounts of GenX over two years developed cancerous tumors in the liver, pancreas, and testicles, according to a report DuPont submitted in January 2013. In addition to the cancers, some of the GenX-exposed rats in that experiment also developed benign tumors, as well as well as kidney disease, liver degeneration, and uterine polyps. To read more, click The Intercept
Companies react to study indicating presence of unregulated toxin in water supply
Water companies and local officials are reacting to a study published in the Wilmington StarNews this week indicating the presence of an unregulated chemical known in the trade market as GenX in the raw water supply feeding many people in southeastern North Carolina. To read more, click WECT
New Hanover, Wilmington officials to meet with Chemours over GenX
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 CFPUA’s water intake on the river. To read more, click Star News
Replacement chemical for C8 being studied amid similar health concerns
“I’m hopeful that it’s better,” Alan Ducatman, professor of occupational and environmental health sciences at West Virginia University, said of GenX in an email. “I’m hopeful that it’s not as bad. But do I think it’s OK? No. In terms of what I have read or recall, DuPont has provided a small amount of data that appears worrisome.” To read more, click The Columbus Dispatch
EPA and Scientific Studies Regarding GenX
Legacy and Emerging Perfluoroalkyl Substances Are Important Drinking Water Contaminants in the Cape Fear River Watershed of North Carolina
Our adsorption data further show that PFPrOPrA (“GenX”) is less adsorbable than PFOA, which it is replacing. Thus, PFPrOPrA presents a greater drinking water treatment challenge than PFOA does. The detection of potentially high levels of PFECAs, the continued presence of high levels of legacy PFASs, and the difficulty of effectively removing legacy PFASs and PFECAs with many water treatment processes suggest the need for broader discharge control and contaminant monitoring. To read more, click University of North Carolina
DuPont-Chemours Reports to the EPA on the Dangers of GenX
To read the letters that DuPont-Chemours sent to the EPA notifying the government of the potential health dangers associated with GenX, click DuPont-Chemours Independent Studies