CINCINNATI, Ohio– The Cincinnati skyline from the Ohio River is one of the most beautiful sights to see in the entire state of Ohio. 

But what if I told you, for years, the river was heavily contaminated with what’s considered a forever chemical. 

PFOA, or C8 as its more commonly known, was used by DuPont in the production of Teflon and other products for years. The DuPont plant that was hundreds of miles away in Parkersburg, West Virginia, pumped thousands of pounds of C8 into the river for decades. 

“Over many years this plan released C8 or PFOA into the Ohio River,” Dr. Susan Pinney, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Cincinnati, said. “It came down the river, and eventually reached the greater Cincinnati area.”

Dr. Susan Pinney, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Cincinnati, has been studying the chemical for years. She said the chemical is just as dangerous as ever. And here’s why. C8 is what’s considered as a forever chemical, meaning that it has a long half-life in humans and is linked to causing cancer, among other health concerns. 

The film Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo, highlights this contamination through the life story of Cincinnati Attorney Robert Bilott. Bilott was tasked with the class action lawsuit against DuPont for releasing C8 into the Ohio River. 

The film is expected to raise awareness for the people of the Mid-Ohio River Valley. 

“We have had very little awareness around here,” Dr. Pinney said. “People need to know. Health care professionals especially need to know. They really need to know about the history of the contamination of the water here. I think that’s the most important thing right now.” 

Dr. Pinney authored a study in 2017 that found residents of the Mid-Ohio River Valley had higher than normal levels of PFOA in their blood. And the effects it has on humans is startling.

“PFOA is very persistent,” she said. “In human bodies, it takes between three and four years to excrete half of what you’ve received.”

On top of being linked to causing certain forms of cancer, Pinney said PFOA is proven to cause low birth weights and smaller head circumference sizes, as well as thyroid dysfunction. Another effect includes your body’s ability to respond to vaccines.

“More recently, there have been a number of studies that have shown that the response to a vaccine,” she said. “When you receive a vaccine, you receive small amounts of a dead virus, and the antibody that responds to that vaccine is diminished.”

Dr. Pinney says people living in Greater Cincinnati should have no cause for concern because the city has an advanced water filtration system. 

“Although the water for greater Cincinnati, on both the Ohio and Kentucky side of the river, is just fine now, we have no problem with contamination with these chemicals,” she said. “I’m sure there are other areas in Ohio that will. That when they test the water will find amounts of chemicals in their, what we call raw water, and treated water. Which would be their drinking water.” 

But Dr. Pinney said the evidence shows that widespread contamination from C8 is everywhere. 

“But until we test we don’t really know, have been affected. ‘And that’s scary, truly scary when you think about that.’ “It is, it is, yeah, it is. How we got to this point is what’s scary. How did we ever end up here.” 

‘Dark Waters’ is now playing in select theatres nationwide.