Tests find man-made chemicals, but not GenX, in blood of residents near Chemours plant

Raleigh, N.C. — The state tested blood from 30 people who rely on well water and live near the Chemours plant in Bladen County and didn‘t find GenX in any of the samples, the state Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday.

But tests found four chemicals from the same family as GenX in blood samples from all 30 people.

Although these man-made chemicals have been used in a range of products for decades and can be found in people around the country, two of these PFAS were found in concentrations higher than the median for the U.S. population, DHHS said.

The study doesn‘t pinpoint the source of the chemicals, though GenX and other PFAS are in the soil and groundwater near the Chemours plant, an industrial facility that has emitted them into the air and water for years. The results also don‘t say anything about the health effects of these chemicals, which are not fully understood, though some are related to an older compound that has been tied to cancer.

Various versions of the chemicals have been used to make all sorts of products, including firefighting foam, Teflon and products that resist water and stains, such as carpet. A number of them have been found in drinking water pulled from the Cape Fear River, and a separate, ongoing study based at North Carolina State University is looking at samples from 340 people in and around Wilmington.

These chemicals are long-lasting, and though the state tested for 17 of them, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has categorized more than 5,600 of them.

“These things are pervasive in our environment,” said Dr. Woodhall Stopford, a physician at Duke University Medical Center and past director of Duke‘s Occupational and Environmental Medicine Toxicology Program who serves on a state science advisory board looking at these chemicals.

The DHHS study found nine of 17 PFAS in blood samples for at least one participant. The other eight weren‘t detected at all. The four found in blood samples from all participants are: PFHxS, n-PFOA, Sm-PFOS and n-PFOS.

PFHxS and n-PFOS were the two found in higher levels than past testing has showed as a median around the country.

“Nobody likes the idea of having man-made chemicals detectable in their blood,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore said Tuesday. “I certainly would not. But it‘s not a surprise to find that they‘re there.”

Stopford and two other science board members said the results will be discussed at their next meeting, slated for Monday.