PARKERSBURG - The C8 science panel has asked and now hopes to receive.
On Nov. 16, the plaintiffs attorneys in a class action lawsuit against DuPont in Wood Circuit Court filed with the court a motion for entry of order regarding compliance of the parties and the science panel as to the court's directive in which the panel asks to perform its own study on the effects of the chemical C8 on DuPont workers.
The science panel, a group of three epidemiologists, was formed as part of a $107 million settlement that stemmed from allegations that DuPont's Washington Works plants exposed residents of six Parkersburg-area water districts to C8. The chemical has been known to cause abnormalities in animals but its effects on humans is largely unknown.
Charleston attorney Harry Deitzler filed the motion, which says the science panel wishes to do a study of the nearly 5,000 Washington Works employees. The panel was supposed to have free reign, he argues, but DuPont would not let it perform a worker study.
Instead, DuPont submitted its own study. The panel has said it would prefer a study that had no conflict of interest.
Judge Arthur Gustke, a fill-in senior status judge while Gov. Joe Manchin picks a successor to the retired George Hill, agreed in a Nov. 13 hearing to ask the science panel what it wished to study. If it didn't infringe on DuPont's confidential information, he would allow it.
"The science panel this study is needed because it has distinct value beyond the research we are conducting in the community residents," the panel wrote. "It promises to make a very important contribution to assessing whether C8 may be linked to any adverse health effects.
"The workers have higher exposures than the community, and a high exposure group is particularly important in determining whether C8 is associated with any adverse health effects."
It adds that DuPont's study only dealt with the mortality rate of employees, not disease incidence.
"The science panel believes it should conduct this study, not DuPont," it adds.
As the panel previously tried to perform its own study on the employees, a DuPont attorney sent the panel a letter that said, "Please stop all work related to an incidence of disease study of DuPont's Washington Works employees."
In response, the panel sent an e-mail that stated, "The science panel regrets DuPont's decision to cancel our proposed worker cohort study. The population in question, DuPont employees, is a relatively highly exposed population. Understanding the potential health effects of C8 in the community will be markedly enhanced by understanding the health effects of C8 in the more highly exposed workers."
DuPont recently released a summary of its own C8 test of more than 6,000 employees and said it found slightly elevated levels of kidney cancer, heart disease and diabetes. However, they said the statistics were not significant enough to provide a link to C8 exposure.
During the hearing on the matter, Deitzler argued:
* That DuPont violated terms of the settlement by sending the letter directly to the science panel and not to Garden City group, a third party intermediary that acts as the settlement administrator;
* That DuPont's own study was subject to the Healthy Worker Effect, which states that the working population at any plant is expected to be healthier than the general population because employers do not hire individuals with apparent illnesses, and has not been submitted to the science panel.
* That "what the science panel has asked for is an ability to do a different sort of analysis on the data, and they aren't going to give us that even though the settlement agreement requires it."
* That DuPont employees are members of the class represented in the complaint and are subject to science panel testing;
* That DuPont's submission of its own study to the science panel would ruin the independence of the results;
* And that the panel's quarterly reports should be filed with the court to keep it up to speed.
In response, DuPont's attorney Larry Janssen countered:
* That DuPont workers are not members of the represented class because they are company employees;
* That a special master involved in the negotiations be put in charge of resolving settlement disputes because he or she will be more familiar with the situation.
* That DuPont's own 73-page study was in-depth enough and lists any faults that the non-encompassing research may have;
* That DuPont has no obligation to turn over the results of the study to the science panel, though it will if asked;
* And that DuPont is planning a follow-up study of disease incidence that it will perform itself.
The science panel insists that's not good enough and is now waiting on Gustke's decision.
"We recognize there are sensitive issues regarding DuPont's obligations to its own workers and the need for the plaintiffs to have some knowledge of our work with the DuPont staff, but we believe these issues can be overcome," the panel wrote.