Chemours to challenge EPA’s GenX guideline
PARKERSBURG — Chemours is challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently released health advisory on the chemical and process it uses in place of C8 in the Teflon-manufacturing process at the Washington Works plant.
The company announced Wednesday it is petitioning the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit for review of the EPA’s June 15 health advisory for hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid and its ammonium salt. HFPO-DA is often referred to as GenX, the trade name of the patented technology platform in which the chemicals are used.
The lifetime health advisory for GenX chemicals was set at 10 parts per trillion, meaning that is the amount that is not expected to have negative health effects over the course of a lifetime of exposure, according to EPA documents. Such advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory.
In a news release, Chemours said the advisory was based on an assessment with “numerous material scientific flaws, including its failure to incorporate available, highly relevant peer-reviewed studies and that it significantly overstates the potential for risk associated with HFPO-DA.” The result, it said, was an advisory based on a reference dose more than 26 times lower than what the agency proposed a few years earlier.
Chemours was spun off from DuPont, which for years used C8 — also known as perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA — in the Teflon-manufacturing process at Washington Works and elsewhere. PFOA and GenX are part of a group of chemicals called per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. They are often labeled “forever chemicals” because their chemical bonds do not degrade or do so very slowly in the environment and remain in a person’s bloodstream indefinitely.
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group that has been studying PFAS for more than 20 years, says the chemicals “have been linked to serious health problems, including increased risk of cancer and harm to the reproductive and immune systems.”
A science panel formed as a result of the settlement of a lawsuit over the presence of C8 in local water supplies found possible links between C8 and half a dozen diseases in humans. C8 was replaced by GenX in 2012, but that substance has since been detected in surface water, groundwater, drinking water, rainwater and air emissions.
In its press release, Chemours said nationally recognized scientific experts have concluded the EPA’s underlying analysis of GenX chemicals is “fundamentally flawed.”
“EPA’s own peer reviewer called aspects of EPA’s toxicity assessment … ‘extreme’ and ‘excessive,'” the release said. “The agency disregarded relevant data and incorporated grossly incorrect and overstated exposure assumptions in devising the health advisory.”
The release describes the agency’s “failure to use the best-available science” as “contrary to this administration’s commitment to scientific integrity and, we believe, unlawful.”
In March, the release said, Chemours filed a Request for Correction with EPA under the Information Quality Act, seeking the withdrawal and correction of the health advisory initially released in October. The company also said it provided additional data showing “potential exposure to HFPO-DA would be primarily in areas close to manufacturing sites and potential exposure would be overwhelmingly from drinking water” but that was not included in the final calculations.
Chemours’ filing does not address the revised lifetime drinking water advisory for C8, which is still present in area water supplies. Carbon filtration systems installed in some area treatment facilities reduce its presence to undetectable levels.
The new guideline is 0.004 parts per trillion, and the EPA noted in its announcement that for PFOA and related chemicals “some negative health effects may occur at concentrations that are near zero and below our ability to detect at this time.”
Guidelines issued in 2016 had set the levels at 70 parts per trillion.
Asked whether the company would challenge the C8 guidelines, a Chemours spokeswoman said, “Chemours has never made or used PFOA.” It was phased out before DuPont spun off Chemours.
The EPA is working to propose a national drinking water regulation by the end of the year and finalize enforceable standards by the end of 2023.
An EPA spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Evan Bevins can be reached at