GenX Chemical In Drinking Water: Side Effects And Health Risks Of GenX

GenX Chemical In Drinking Water: Side Effects And Health Risks Of GenX

GenX is a name for a chemical process or technology which is used to develop advanced polymers. Such high-performance products are used in laptops, cable wires, non-stick coatings like Teflon, food wrapper coatings, cellular phones, and various applications.

GenX has replaced the perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, and it has been used since 2009. PFOAs have four to five years of half-lives to humans. Meaning, it takes four to five years before half of the compounds can be eliminated in the body. On the other hand, the half-life of GenX in humans has not yet been established.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet developed a standard water regulation for such contaminants. Also, there is limited information concerning this chemical in the water. However, it is sure that in the years to come, the EPA can determine the possible health risks and safety standards for this.

As such, in this article, we will introduce further what GenX is and what are its possible health risks for humans. Also, we will discuss some of the studies conducted regarding the GenX concentrations in the water.

GenX Chemical

GenX is the mixture of the fluorochemicals that can be found in the watershed of the Cape Fear River. The process of making GenX involves two molecules of hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) to form the HFPO-DA fluoride. After that, it is being converted to ammonium salt, thereby making the official GenX compound.

Whenever the GenX contacts in the water, the ammonium group is released, thereby making the HFPO-DA. Since the HFPO-DA is a tough acid, it deprotonates at pH levels available in the surroundings. As such, it became the most popular fluorochemical of Cape Fear River.

Possible Health Risks

GenX, HFPO-DA, the by-products of Nafion, and other compounds are called the PFAs (polyfluoroalkyl). According to the EPA, exposure to PFAs can lead to various health effects. This is based on laboratory experiments done on rats and monkeys.

Also, some studies on humans show that PFAs can harm the development of unborn children and children. It can even interfere with the hormones, decrease chances of fertility, raise cholesterol levels, weaken the immune system, and increase the chance of the development of cancer.

High Levels of GenX in Cape Fear River

While searching for bromide sources in the Cape Fear River watershed many years ago, Detlef Knappe (NC State Environmental Engineer) found out that there are high concentrations of GenX and other industrial chemicals in the water. It has even entered the entire area of North Carolina and affected around 200,000 people.

The findings of the scientists have placed them in a dilemma that grows every passing week. The Cape Fear River watershed is among the largest water source in the state, and it caters to around 1.5 million people.

According to them, airports, industrial sites, fire-training areas, and wastewater treatment plants contribute to the higher levels of industrial wastes in the water.

GenX Chemical In Drinking Water-Side Effects And Health Risks Of GenX

The Chemours Company

In Wilmington, the emerging levels of GenX and other PFAS chemicals (polyfluoroalkyl) originated from the manufacturing plant from Wilmington, which is owned by the Chemours Company. The contaminant is a byproduct of the vinyl ether process inside the company. It has been in the water since the 1980s.

The Chemours Company sits on 2,870 hectares of land near the Cape Fear River. It flows around 110 km, which reaches Wilmington. There is an estuary that is around 50 km long at the south of the city, and it ends in the Atlantic Ocean.

The facility was operated and built by DuPont. However, it was handed over to Chemours in 2015. Since the 1980s, the company has manufactured fluoropolymers. The current products of the plant are Nafion sulfonated tetrafluoroethylene-based ionic polymers. These are used as fuel cells membranes. Also, this is being utilized in the production of sodium hydroxide and chlorine.

For many years, the plant has been using the ammonium salt of the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) as a surfactant. This aids in the polymerization of the fluoropolymers.

Previously, 3M Company supplies DuPont with PFOA. However, 3M has stopped its manufacture in the USA from 2000 to 2002. This is because there is a rising concern about the health effects of perfluorinated chemicals with long chains or eight carbon. This includes PFOA, which is known to have ill effects on the environment.

The article, which was published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters, shows that the concentrations of GenX at Wilmington source have an average of 631 parts per billion.

According to studies, DuPont began producing PFOA at the Fayetteville plant in 2001. As such, they have been sending around 1 kilogram of PFOA to the river each year. As the PFOA comes off the market, DuPont developed a substitute surfactant called the GenX.

Since there were not enough studies and standards available, Knappe, together with his team, decided that the 631 parts per billion are already high versus the EPA’s standards of 70 parts per billion on PFOS and PFOA.

State and Local Interventions

Moreover, Knappe said that GenX is more difficult to remove in water compared to other chemicals. As the study was published in November 2016, there is no response from state and local government authorities. In March 2017, Knappe sent warnings, yet those warnings have no answers as well.

In June 2017, the Star-News correspondent in Wilmington published a story about the findings of Knappe. After that, it received public outcry among the residents and public officials. Then, the company stopped releasing wastewater that contains GenX into the Cape Fear River.

Next, the Department of Health and Human Services set a goal to keep the concentration of GenX below 140 parts per trillion in the water. They used the studies conducted by the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment to make their decision. The event happened quickly, but it was indeed a good decision.

Halt of the Chemours Company

The North Carolina officials and the Wilmington water utility exerted effort to stop the contamination. The standard drinking water treatment cannot eliminate polyfluorinated ethers. As such, the state asked the Chemours Company to stop the process of vinyl ether production instead.

Meanwhile, the Company said that before they produced the GenX for commercial purposes, they have a legal agreement with the EPA under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. In such consent dated in January 2009, the EPA has allowed the company to manufacture GenX’s parent acid, the oxide dimer acid fluoride (HFPO-DA fluoride).

Furthermore, the company said that GenX is a sustainable replacement for PFOA in the market. According to them, it has a favorable toxicological profile. It can be eliminated from the bodies of the animals as tested in the laboratory. GenX is made using controlled technologies that can reduce the possible risks in the ecosystem.

After that, the state officials revoked the wastewater discharge permit of the Chemours Company for the fluorochemical production unit. The company now halls the fluorochemical wastewater production from a facility at Fayetteville via a tanker tank. Then, it rails to Deer Park in Texas for disposal and deep injection well. As such, there is a decline in the GenX concentrations in the downstream resources.

Unclear Toxicity

The residents of Wilmington and the public health officials do not know exactly whether or not drinking water contaminated with GenX chemicals can affect people’s health.

To have some guidance on drinking water safety, the authorities turned to the European Chemicals Agency for data on GenX. DuPont has registered the manufactured compound in the European Union in the previous years under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals law (REACH). DuPont submitted results of two-year chronic toxicity plus studies involving rats.

The European Union determined how ingesting 1 mg of GenX per kilogram can affect the living body with the information available.

After the consultation with the US EPA, the North Carolina authorities set a 140 ppt in drinking water based on the data from the European Union. A public health goal refers to the level of pollution that has no ill effects over a lifetime of people's exposure. Such number is the metric used which is for guidance only.

Current Developments

The team of Knappe is currently conducting a study of GenX exposure with the residents of New Hanover County. The residents are consumers of the public utility water of the lower Cape Fear River. They are made to provide blood and urine samples, and they completed questionnaires based on the water use. The samples will be used to analyze the effects of GenX in the human body.

The results of the study will be shared with the New Hanover County and in the state.

Moreover, they also develop filtration materials that can help remove the GenX in the water, especially at home. Meanwhile, commercial reverse-osmosis units can fit underneath the sink, which can be effective in removing the fluorochemicals.

GenX Standard on Drinking Water

Currently, the EPA has no national standard set for GenX and other related compounds in the drinking water. However, the agency has stated that it has been starting to address the problem with a panel of scientists. It is bringing together the scientists that specialize in air, water, chemicals, and wastes. All offices will work hand in hand in setting the standard at the soonest time possible.

The majority of the fluorinated compound in the Cape Fear River can be addressed by capturing the fluorochemical process wastewater for disposal. If such practice continues, then the spills at the plant might be the main concern of future pollution.

The Cape River water flows from the plant at Fayetteville to Wilmington in two to three days. If the company can give some warning about the fluorochemical spill, people can rely on the stored water until the contamination subsides.

The Contamination of the Waters

The United States of America isn’t just famous because of its dream-like lifestyles and Hollywood celebrities. The country does have 100,000 lakes and 250,000 rivers that are rich with natural resources and clean water.

Lakes such as Lake Michigan in Chicago and Lake Erie in Cleveland, and rivers like Detroit River in Detroit and Mississippi River in New Orleans are some of the sources of clean water in the U.S.

GenX Chemical In Drinking Water-Side Effects And Health Risks Of GenX

Although these sources are high in numbers, the volume of clean drinking water is not enough to supply thousands of households. Some of the reasons for this insufficiency are the growing population and the developing society.

As the year passes by, the value of the fertility rate for each country also escalates. And because of that, society must keep up to tend the needs of these people. The industries and manufacturers develop cheap and convenient entities to help lessen the minor difficulties of the citizens. Unfortunately, due to excessive and unguided usage of these said materials, some unexpected results have risen, causing more danger to the people.

Because of the amount of garbage being disposed into the oceans, marine ecosystems are slowly dying. The plastic and glass bottles are spreading on the seafloor, and the straws are choking the living organisms. Chemicals were also disposed of on the land and seas by big manufacturers and companies. And because of that, the said sources are being polluted, causing risk to the species depending on it.

One of the harmful entities created by man is GenX. This chemical follows a process that uses 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoro-2-(heptafluoropropoxy)propanoic acid (FRD-903) and produces heptafluoropropyl 1,2,2,2-tetrafluoroethylene ether (E1) and 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoro-2-(heptafluoropropoxy)propanoate (FRD-902) which makes it non-biodegradable and non-hydrolysable by water.

GenX is used for making nonstick coatings, paints, food packaging, cleaning products, firefighting foam, and outdoor fabrics. These chemicals are new to the group of artificial compounds and are also known as fluorochemicals.  

It was initially produced last 2009 in Fayetteville, manufactured by the Chemours to replace PFOA. This chemical was believed to have existed for many years in the environment before being commercially produced as GenX. 

However, studies have shown that these GenX compounds could cause contamination on both water and ground, making the resources toxic and carcinogenic.

One good example is the breakout that happened in the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. Last September 5, 2017, the Chemours were halted with their production of the materials after discovering that they are disposing of GenX compounds in the said river. This was illegal because the U.S. has acts and standards regarding the protection of the water source.

And since the river was the main source of water supply for Brunswick, New Hanover, Bladen, and Pender counties, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the state Department of Health and Human Services have conducted tests to assess the amount of GenX compounds in the water.  

Starting from June 19, the said departments started to collect samples on both surface and ground waters from various sites in Fayetteville, such as Wilmington and some more locations near the plant. After this, they immobilized the Chemours from emitting GenX compounds in the river and redirect these waste products into their temporary tanks.

On July 14, the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Health and Human Services has released their preliminary test results and updated the health assessments for the concentrations of the said chemical in the drinking water.  

Their reports have proved that the water is indeed contaminated, thus ceasing them from acquiring their supply from the river. For two months, they continued getting samples from the same sites as they also continued studying the possible effects of GenX on humans and animals. They have also noticed that after making the Chemours stopped, the GenX compounds are slowly diminishing.

Experts have also theorized that when a living organism is exposed or has taken water contaminated with GenX, they could develop kidney diseases, liver degeneration, differences in pathology, increased liver and kidney weights, and tumors in the pancreas, liver, and liver tests. This could also affect one's reproductive system by developing uterine polyps, causing early birth, lowering fetal weight, deformation of fetal skeletal, and delaying puberty.  If this person or animal happened not to be treated immediately, then death could be the worst case.

After finding this out, the Brunswick County Government tried to make the Chemours paid for their damages by filling out a federal lawsuit. Together with the Cape Fear River Watch and the Southern Environmental Law Center acting as their legal counsel, they have claimed that the Chemours have numerous violations of the Clean Water Act, specifically under section 505(b). The said government has also alleged the DuPont because they failed to disclose the studies done regarding the risks from the GenX.

Moreover, after the said event, the Cape Fear River Watch, a non-profit organization located in Wilmington, North Carolina, pledge to improve and protect the quality of the water in the Lower Cape Fear River Basin by having activities and promotions on the education regarding the importance of the water sources, their advocacy and the action that must be taken.

The citizens were also alarmed after finding this out. They have stopped using tap water and tried to find a new water source; they tried to make private wells but were then halted by the Department of Environmental Quality because even the ground could be contaminated.

In addition, the Department of Environmental Quality plans to continue getting water samples from the said vicinity to study the possible long-term results of these chemicals. Due to this continuing research, the people were then advised not to get water coming from the river because the said department doesn’t have a concrete list of effects that could happen to them and only have theorems.

The local government has tried its best to supply the needs of the citizens. They have made solutions such as connecting the residence to the municipal water lines, drilling deeper wells, and using a modern filtration system to eliminate the contamination. They have also improved their ways of cleaning the source to bring back its cleanliness once again. The Chemours have also helped by providing bottled waters to the residence and promised to continue this plan until a solution is determined.

Although it may seem like really big damage, it is still a good thing that this illegal emission was seen and was provided by solutions immediately because worst things might happen if these discharges continued. If the water were constantly contaminated, then the people and other living organisms depending on the water would suffer from the damages.    

Drinking-Water Alternatives

The health needs of each person can vary individually. The use of bottled drinking water is a good alternative if one wishes to save his family from the unknown health effects of GenX in the water.

However, it must be noted that the makeup of the bottled water must be devoid of other harmful chemicals.  Check the manufacturer as well as the other information regarding the bottled water.

The Berkey Water Filtration System

GenX Chemical In Drinking Water: Side Effects And Health Risks Of GenX

If one is searching for a water filter for his family, then the Berkey Water Filtration System can be an effective solution against the possible health risks of GenX.

The Berkey Water Filter system has seven units that can look similar, but they differ in storage capacity. The expectation is that the Black Berkey Purification elements would reduce GenX in water. It is important to note that NMCL does not have actual testing for these particular contaminants yet. Without specific testing, we cannot claim this specific chemical. Still, the data suggest that the Berkey would likely be very efficient at removing GenX, given that it is a fluoropolymer resin similar to PFOA.

Take a sneak peek at our products of Berkey Water Filtration System below:

Royal Berkey Water Filter

GenX Chemical In Drinking Water: Side Effects And Health Risks Of GenX

One awesome product being offered by our company is the Royal Berkey Water Filter. It can be used by large families inside the home. Also, this can be used for several outdoor activities or emergencies. Thus, families need not worry about the possible contamination of GenX in their water.

The Royal Berkey has a storage capacity of 3.25 gallons of water, and it can serve around 2 to 4 people every day in normal use. The Black Berkey filter can purify the elements and remove up to 99.9% of chemicals and other compounds.

According to laboratory test results, our Berkey products can remove Chlorine, Mercury, Arsenic, Iron, Uranium, and others. Surely, this can protect the family from the possible harmful effects of GenX.

Grab yours now here!

Berkey Light Water Filter

For a lightweight alternative, you can have the Berkey Light Water Filter instead. This product has a water capacity of 2.75 gallons or 10.4 liters, and it also features two Black Berkey purification filters.
The Berkey Light is made from a non-BPS or BPA copolyester. As such, it does not retain or leach any foul smell into the water. With its see-through style, one can quickly determine the amount of water in the upper container.

With normal use, it can serve around 1 to 5 people. During emergencies, it can even serve 100 to 200 people each day when fully configured.

Finally, the Berkey light water filter can remove up to 99.9% of the viruses, pathogenic bacteria, chemicals, and other compounds in the water, just like the Royal Berkey. As such, grab yours nowhere!

Conclusion

In a nutshell, more studies are still to be conducted to determine the substantial health effects of GenX chemical compounds in human beings. However, we must not disregard its threat and take the necessary steps to safe drinking water.

Indeed, new approaches and monitoring strategies are needed to make the drinking water inside the home healthy. Also, it is crucial that the industry and the authorities can arrive at agreed monitoring and permitting scheme.



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