A chemical that is used to help make Teflon is so common in the environment that humans get their first taste of it in the womb.
Johns Hopkins researchers found C8 in the umbilical-cord blood of 299 newborns—every baby tested.
“We weren’t sure we would find it,” said Lynn Goldman, one of the researchers who studied the infants, who were born at the Baltimore hospital in 2004 and 2005.
“Now we’re turning our focus on what the effects on the babies might be.”
At the same time, a separate study is being planned to see how long C8 stays in the body.
The fight over C8 has raged for several years since the chemical was detected in drinking water near a DuPont plant along the Ohio River in West Virginia.
DuPont has used C8 for decades at its Washington Works factory to make Teflon-brand nonstick, stain- and water-resistant coatings for pots and pans, carpets, clothes and fast-food packages.
The new study will examine the blood of 200 people who drank that contaminated water. The researchers, appointed by a West Virginia court in a lawsuit settlement, will study the residents for four years.
Previous studies have shown that residents near DuPont’s Washington Works factory have C8 in their blood at levels 25 times the average.
The researchers also hope to document how fast C8 levels decline in residents who drink filtered water, said Lisa Collins, spokeswoman for the panel of scientists.
Dan Turner, a DuPont spokesman, said a study by 3M and the American Red Cross found that levels of C8 were cut in half in 40 Minneapolis-St. Paul area residents five years after 3M started to phase out the chemical.
Dupont announced that it would stop using C8 by 2015 but continues to say that it doesn’t believe C8 is harmful to humans.
High levels of C8 have been found to cause cancer in lab animals. That led a panel of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists to label the chemical a likely human carcinogen.
Deborah Gray, an Ohio State University toxicologist, said a lot more research is needed.
“Any time you have a chemical that is that widespread in the environment and that widespread in people, it certainly is worth taking a look at in a very critical way,” Gray said.