NC State researchers continue GenX study with hundreds of people in Wilmington

Published: Sep. 26, 2021 at 6:23 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2021 at 7:54 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A group of researchers from North Carolina State University and East Carolina University began a GenX study back in 2017, looking at the health effects of human exposure to GenX and other related chemicals.

“The other chemicals that we find in people’s bodies, like PFOA, PFAS, are almost measured in every American in the United States, but at much lower levels. So, it seems like the Cape Fear River as a whole has a higher level of exposure and to these chemicals,” Jane Hoppin, Deputy Director of the Center for Human Health and the Environment at North Carolina State University. said. “One of the health effects that’s been most associated with this class of chemicals, PFAS, is the impact on cholesterol.”

Over the years hundreds of New Hanover and Brunswick County residents have been tested. In the initial 3-year phase of the study, beginning in 2017, nearly 500 people were tested. In this new phase of the study, beginning in February of 2020, around 800 people are enrolled and scheduled to be tested.

“We had 3 years of funding from the National Institutes of Health. In February 2020, NC State received a large grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, called the Superfund grant. So, we got started in February 2020, but that study means we have five years of funding to follow people and we’re hoping to continue to follow people for at least 20 years because it’s easier to show causation when we have exposure characterized before the health effect happens,” Hoppin said.

The research team was collecting samples from Wilmington residents at the New Hanover County Health Department Friday through Sunday.

A Wilmington resident is offering a helping hand in this study as a Masters student at ECU.

“This is important to me because this is my community here, I was born and raised here, and I currently live here,” said Sarah Bayless. “So, we found something in the environment that is potentially effecting people, so it’s really important to see what’s happening, and if there is a response, it’s important in general.”

The goal of this study is to answer 3 questions:

  1. Is GenX detectable in my body?
  2. What predicts GenX in my body?
  3. Are there health effects associated with GenX?

Bayless also explained exactly what these researchers are looking at when samples are taken from the effected people: “currently we’re looking at potential exposure measures, thyroid function and also looking at COVID-19 response, as well as vaccine response due to the PFAS.”

Hoppin said that it will take some time to analyze their findings, but they hope to have more results published and questions answered early next year.

“The motivation was and continues to be: how do we answer questions about this exposure and how do we understand it and help people make decisions for their health,” Hoppin said. “If we want to understand the health effects of these chemicals, people who unfortunately had that exposure should be in the study, because it lets us follow this, but also let us understand how long these chemicals may remain in our bodies.”

Hoppin added that they have studied people from the ages of 6 to 86.

The research team will be at The Brunswick Center at Leland on October 15-16, 2021.

If you would like to participate in the study, click here.

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