MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A published study by researchers in the West Virginia University School of Public Health has found an association between high levels of a common environmental chemical and cardiovascular disease.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also called C8, is a manmade chemical used in the manufacture of common household consumer products, including water bottles, clothing, paints, cosmetics and non-stick cookware. Surveys have shown that PFOA is detectable in the blood of more than 98 percent of the U.S. population.

WVU researchers examined 1,216 subjects from the 1999-2003 National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, a major program of the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The team found that increased PFOA levels were positively associated with cardiovascular disease and peripheral artery disease, independent of traditional risk factors, such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, smoking status, body mass index, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol level.

Anoop Shankar, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and interim chair of the WVU Department of Epidemiology, said the study is of particular importance in West Virginia because of the C8 contamination of drinking water. However, he added that this is a very preliminary study and has only discovered an association between the two not causality.

“These two factors – increased PFOA levels and cardiovascular disease – are co-existing together for some reason,” Dr. Shankar said. “To determine the cause and effect, we would have to do follow-up studies over time, which we are, in fact, doing. At this point, we cannot say that one caused the other.”

In the meantime, the Environmental Protection Agency and the chemical industry have agreed to phase out the use of PFOA by 2015. Shankar said he believes the chemical can be denatured and that the industry should be credited for its stewardship in phasing it out.

Co-authors on the study include Alan Ducatman, M.D., interim founding dean of the School of Public Health, and Jie Xiao, M.S.

The study, “Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Cardiovascular Disease in U.S. Adults,” was published online by the Archives of Internal Medicine on Monday. It was supported by a National Clinical Research Program grant from the American Heart Association and grants R01 ES021825-01 and 5R03ES018888-02 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health. It can be viewed online at