What is GenX?
GenX is a chemical used in the process of making high-performance polymers for manufacturing cabling, cookware, non-stick coatings, laptops, cell phones, and other similar applications. It is one in a family of chemicals known as PFECAs. GenX was introduced by DuPont to replace PFOA, one in a family of chemicals referred to as C8 or PFAS. GenX can also be created as a byproduct of some manufacturing processes.
Has GenX Been Released at the DuPont-Chemours Fayetteville Works Site?
The DuPont Company has owned and operated a manufacturing facility known as Fayetteville Works in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The Chemours Company now owns and operates the site, although one DuPont unit still operates there. The plant is located approximately 100 miles upstream from Wilmington, North Carolina. DuPont and later Chemours have manufactured GenX as a commercial product there. In addition, another one of the manufacturing processes at the Fayetteville plant produces GenX and a byproduct. Previously DuPont manufactured PFOA at the site.
Testing shows that the Fayetteville Works Site has released GenX into the Cape Fear River. For example, testing by the U.S. EPA found that GenX was being released from the 002 Outfall at the Fayetteville Works Site on June 19, 2017 at 21,760 parts per trillion (ppt), on June 26, 2017 at 15,250 ppt and on July 3, 2017 at 21,530 ppt. DuPont documents also show that PFOA was released to the Cape Fear River.
How Long has GenX Been Released From Fayetteville Works to the Cape Fear River?
Based on public disclosures from plant officials, DuPont has been discharging GenX as a byproduct of one of its manufacturing processes since at least 1980.
What Levels of GenX Were Found in the Cape Fear River?
On May 3, 2016, North Carolina State University Professor Detlef Knappe published initial findings of an ongoing research paper on perfluorinated compounds with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA). The findings show that GenX was detected at an average concentration of 631 parts per trillion, with high concentrations up to about 4,500 parts per trillion.
On November 10, 2016, Knappe, with co-authors at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and several government agencies, published his paper showing elevated levels of GenX in samplings near a drinking water treatment plant along the Cape Fear River near Wilmington. Unsuccessful tests of different methods to remove GenX from drinking water also showed the traditional treatment plant methods did not remove GenX from the drinking water produced by that plant.
On June 22, 2017, the U.S. EPA measured over 720 ppt of GenX in the finished water delivered to properties served by the CFPUA.
In July 2017, the CFPUA reported GenX in finished water from the CFPU at 250, 286 and 185 ppt; all levels above the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS)’s Health Goal of 140 ppt, established on July 24, 2017.
Company officials say that the amount of GenX released at the Fayetteville Works Facility has been reduced.
What are the Health Risks From Exposure to GenX?
Research has linked C8, the chemical GenX replaced, to risks for kidney and testicular cancer, liver function abnormalities, immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and disorders such a thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy-induced hypertension, as well as other conditions. The EPA fact sheet describing some of the health effects can be found here. The ground-breaking work of the C8 Science Panel on the health impacts of can be found here. There are indications that Genx has similar health effects.
Documents submitted by DuPont to the U.S. EPA indicate that GenX has been associated with increased risk of health effects in laboratory animal studies, including risks of cancer, increased weight, changes to the immune system and cholesterol levels, fluctuations in size of kidneys and livers, cancerous tumors in liver pancreas and testicles, and reproductive effects.
In 2016, The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment of the Netherlands evaluated substances used in the Chemours GenX technology at the Chemours plant in Dordrecht, The Netherlands, which has manufacturing processes and technology substantially similar to that at the Fayetteville Works Site. The National Institute concluded that the defendants’ GenX chemicals should be considered suspected human carcinogens, with effects on the liver at similar dose levels as for PFOA.
In 2017, a report from researchers at Stockholm University in Sweden found that GenX may have a higher toxic potency than its PFOA predecessor when correcting for differences in toxicokinetics. They also found that PFECAs are likely similar to PFOA in terms of physicochemical properties and environmental fate.
On July 14, 2017, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) updated the health goal for GenX to 140 ng/L. They stated that the updated health assessment is based on evolving toxicological data, and is still considered provisional and subject to further updates based on ongoing review, consultation with federal agencies and other partners, and the introduction of new research and scientific information.
Who Has Been Exposed to GenX?
The CFPUA water service map shows that most CFPUA customers get their water from the Cape Fear River. In fact, CFPUA has said that about 80 percent of New Hanover County’s drinking water comes from the Cape Fear River. The Cape Fear River also supplies Brunswick County Public Utilities and Pender County Utilities.