GenX is a name for 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 use of the perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, and it has been used since 2009. PFOAs have four to five years 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 have not yet been established.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet developed a standard water regulation for such contaminant. Also, there is limited information with regard to this chemical in the water. However, it is sure that in the years to come, the EPA can be able to 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 with regards to the GenX concentrations in the water.
GenX is basically 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. Thereafter, it is being converted to ammonium salt thereby making the official GenX compound.
Whenever the GenX contacts in the water, the ammonium grouped is being 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 as 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, there are some studies on humans that show that the PFAs can harm the development of unborn child and children. It can even interfere with the hormones, decrease chances of fertility, raise the cholesterol levels, weaken the immune system, and increase the chance of the development of cancer.
High Levels of GenX in Cape Fear River
While in the search for bromide sources in the Cape Fear River watershed many years ago, Detlef Knappe (NC State Environmental Engineer) have 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 in 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 all contribute to the higher levels of industrial wastes in the water.
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 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 reach Wilmington. At the south of the city, there is an estuary which is around 50 km long, and it ends into 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. This is 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 with regards to the health effects of perfluorinated chemicals with long chains or eight carbon. This includes PFOA which is known to have ill effects in the environment.
The article, which was published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters shows that the concentrations of GenX at Wilmington source has an average of 631 parts per billion.
According to studies, DuPont began producing PFOA at the Fayetteville plant at 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 as the GenX.
At this time, 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. Thereafter, it received public outcry among the residents and public officials. Then, the company stopped releasing wastewater which 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 the 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 the 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 on January 2009, the EPA has allowed the company for the manufacture of the GenX’s parent acid which is the oxide dimer acid fluoride (HFPO-DA fluoride).
Furthermore, the company said that the GenX is a sustainable replacement of 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.
Thereafter, 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 tanker tank. Then, it rails to Deer Park in Texas for disposal and deep injection well. As such, there is a decline of the GenX concentrations in the downstream resources.
The residents of the Wilmington as well as the public health officials do not know exactly whether or not the drinking water contaminated with GenX chemicals can affect the people’s health.
As such, to have some guidance on the drinking water safety, the authorities turned to the European Chemicals Agency for data on GenX. In the previous years, DuPont has registered the manufactured compound in the European Union under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals law (REACH). DuPont submitted results of two-year chronic toxicity plus studies involving rats.
With the information available, the European Union determined how ingesting 1 mg of GenX per kilogram can affect the living body.
After the consultation with the US EPA, the North Carolina authorities set a goal of 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 any ill effects over a lifetime of exposure of the people. Such number is the metric used which is for guidance only.
The team of Knappe is currently conducting a study of GenX exposure with the residents of the New Hanover County. The residents are consumers of the public utility water of the lower Cape Fear River. They are made to provide samples of their blood and urine, 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 to the New Hanover County and in the state.
Moreover, they are also developing filtration materials that can help remove the GenX in the water especially at home. Meanwhile, there are commercial reverse-osmosis units that can fit underneath the sink which can be effective in the removal of 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 the aid of 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 with regards to the fluorochemical spill, people can rely on the stored water until the contamination subsides.
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
If one is on the search of 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 which can look similar, but they differ on the storage capacity. With our gravity water filter, rest assured that your family has an adequate supply of clean water even if there are threats of GenX chemicals in your water source.
Take a sneak peek with our products of Berkey Water Filtration System below:
Royal Berkey Water Filter
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 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. With the Black Berkey filter, it can purify the elements and remove up to 99.9% of chemicals and other compounds.
According to laboratory test results, our Berkey products have the ability to remove Chlorine, Mercury, Arsenic, Iron, Uranium, and others. Surely, this can protect the family from possible harmful effects of GenX.
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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 the use of two Black Berkey purification filter.
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 of the upper container.
With normal everyday 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 now here!
In a nutshell, there are still more studies to be conducted to determine the concrete health effects of GenX chemical compound in human beings. However, we must not disregard its threat and take the necessary steps in making the drinking water safe.
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.
EcoBlueLife.com is a replacement water and air filter company located in the United States. The views and opinions contained herein are solely those of the original author and do not represent Eco Blue Life or its affiliates. This article was originally published on TheBerkey.com