WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - We've been hearing a lot about GenX and 1,4-dioxane in the water, but there is growing cause for concern that C8 may have been in the Cape Fear River, too.
C8 was the chemical predecessor of GenX, and it was phased out years ago because it was linked to cancer and other medical ailments.
This week, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority announced it is testing for traces of C8 in the water as a precaution.
On Thursday, we heard from environmental law attorneys who are also looking for historical discharge records to see if DuPont discharged C8 in the Cape Fear River before spinning off its Fayetteville chemical plant to Chemours. Attorneys said the water contamination situation in Wilmington is similar to other places in the country where C8 was discharged and prompted major lawsuits.
Then Friday, WECT saw a 2007 report citing Environmental Protection Agency data showing C8 in the Cape Fear River. This comes as we are still trying to better understand the other chemicals recently discovered in our water supply.
Dr. Thaddeus Coin, a Wilmington neurologist and former chemist, found out about the chemicals in our water about three weeks ago when this story first broke.
"Obviously everyone in Wilmington feels like they should have learned (about chemicals in the water) a long time ago, and I'm one of them," Coin said.
He added that he was frustrated to learn scientists have been studying these chemicals in the Cape Fear River for years, but the findings of their research have only recently reach the general public in Wilmington.
Coin has been going over research for several weeks, getting up to speed on C8, GenX, and its cousin chemicals, trying to determine the potential health implications for all of us who have been drinking the water. So far, researchers have been unable to name many of the other chemicals found in the river with similar molecular structure to GenX, much less thoroughly research them.
The few studies available on GenX were done on rodents. From a health standpoint, GenX appears to be an improvement over C8, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's safe for people.
"It has different physical properties, and the most important one being that it seems to be cleared from animals much more quickly than C8 was," Coin explained. "You would think if it doesn't stick around as long, it gets degraded easier and it's not as harmful. But what you think is not necessarily what you know and that's the problem is that in human beings, no one actually knows how long it sticks around and whether or not it causes any problems."
Even if GenX can pass through your system faster than C8, if you constantly reintroduce GenX to your body through the drinking water, Coin said it would be difficult for your body to eliminate. It's a concept known in the pharmaceutical world as a "steady state level" in the bloodstream.
"We may have hope that once the introduction (of these chemicals) in the river has been confirmed to be stopped, once it's not in the drinking water, it might be cleared from our system. So there's still hope for that," Coin said.