North Carolina State University is leading a project to find out the impacts of a little-studied chemical on human health. Scientists are taking samples from hundreds of residents in the eastern part of the state who may have been exposed to GenX.

The chemical is used in the production of nonstick coating for cookware. GenX was discharged into the Cape Fear River by the company Chemours. The river is a drinking water source for around 300,000 people in the area. That's prompted concerns from local residents and environmental groups.

NC State researchers are collecting blood, urine and tap water samples from around 400 volunteers in New Hanover County. They began their work over the weekend. Scientists are looking to see if they detect GenX or other related compounds. The university is also partnering with East Carolina University, the local health department and other community groups to help gather the data.

“We will also measure thyroid function, lipid levels like cholesterol and liver function and participants will complete a questionnaire on their water-use history,” says Jane Hoppin, a professor at NC State and lead researcher for the project.

Scientists say little is known about how GenX is stored in the body, the toxicity of it or how long the chemical will remain in the environment. She says the purpose of this study is to help answer questions from the community.

“There's no other human data on GenX. This will be the first study for that and that's really important information, so that people can start to make decisions about what needs to be done next,” says Hoppin.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) awarded a two-year, $275,000 grant to NC State to conduct the study.

Hoppin hopes it will lead to more testing in other communities. She expects the results to be available in late February. That information will be shared with both the community and each individual participant.

“We are assembling a community science advisory panel that will help us formulate how we want to report back results to people and also to be sure that the public health and health care providers in the community are aware of the study and its findings. We don't want people to be surprised,” she says.

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news


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