Understanding GenX better

After listening to information from state officials at several meetings about GenX and an explanation about chemical compounds, I now have a better understanding of the connection between C8 and GenX.

Once C8 was determined to be a carcinogen and came under heavy federal and state regulation, DuPont chemists were assigned the task of creating an alternative that would differ enough to be at least temporarily unregulated and would hopefully have fewer toxic properties.

The alternative would be created by slightly changing the chemical composition of C8, enough to avoid government regulation but not enough to lose the properties that made it a financially valuable asset to the company.

Meanwhile, DuPont faced multiple lawsuits in West Virginia due to the contamination of several municipal water systems and large numbers of private wells, along with the deaths of hundreds of cattle on a farm adjacent to the plant and hundreds of private lawsuits related to cancer cases in the area’s citizens.

So DuPont moved the C8 manufacturing to their Bladen County plant, and spun it off into a new division called Chemours.

DuPont chemists created GenX by one simple change to the C8 compound — they added one oxygen molecule. They believed this one change would cause GenX to be less absorbed into the bloodstream so that it would safer for the human body.

DuPont began manufacturing GenX, and conducted blood tests on their employees to test their theory. Test results indicated that GenX left the bloodstream faster than C8. That was the only human testing conducted, and very limited testing has been done on animals.

Further testing has shown that adding that one oxygen molecule to get GenX to leave the bloodstream faster did not mean GenX was leaving the human body as they thought it would. Instead, it made GenX easier for the body to absorb into cells and tissues. So as the blood was filtered throughout the body, GenX attached to cells in organs and glands and caused diseases such as cancer of those organs and glands to develop in especially high numbers. That one extra molecule also caused GenX to be more easily transmitted through the air and absorbed into water.

There have been hundreds of wells tested for GenX near the DuPont plant. Only a small number have been tested for C8, but both GenX and C8 have been found. A DEQ official said that they suspect C8 manifests itself as GenX in some of the tests because the chemical composition is nearly identical and it is extremely difficult to differentiate between the two in normal testing procedures.

If the current proposed legislation passes in the General Assemby, more testing will be done over the next few months to compile a report to be presented to the NCGA in May.

Meanwhile, levels of GenX continue to rise in local wells, including wells that belong to the county water system.

I have asked our County Commissioners to continue testing the 13 wells in the county system and to take steps to isolate the contamination as much as possible. I would like for them to isolate the 3 wells that contain GenX from the 10 that so far do not to avoid further contamination. We need to protect as much of our county water supply as we possibly can. I personally do not believe water in the Tobemory, Live Oak, and White Oak wells is safe to drink. Testing conducted has already shown there are private wells in those areas that are not safe, and never will be.

The next commissioner’s meeting will be Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The only way to fully know what happens at their meetings is to be there in person, especially since the meetings are no longer available to the public in video form.

Patsy Sheppard

Tar Heel