“RALEIGH — The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) defended its scientific practices Thursday after a Duplin County legislator accused researchers of allowing political motivations to sway their results.

‘Our scientists have no agenda, political or otherwise, beyond following standard scientific protocols and performing the research requested of them via HB 56,’ Janine Iamunno, a UNCW spokeswoman, said in a statement.

At the center of the controversy is the research the N.C. General Assembly funded in October 2017, giving UNCW $250,000 to study how the chemical accumulates in local ecosystems and what risk it poses to human health. Researchers presented their results — initially reported April 1 — Thursday to the N.C. House Select Committee on N.C. River Quality.

Drawing the particular ire of some legislators was a section of the UNCW report describing how juvenile oysters died at higher rates and filtered poorly when exposed to GenX at concentrations of 100,000 parts per trillion. The legislators questioned why researchers conducted experiments the way they had and ascribed them political motivations…

First, Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, questioned why scientists had tested oysters at concentrations of 100,000 parts per trillion of GenX. McElraft also said including the phrase ‘increase mortality rates’ on a slide summarizing the findings would do little more than alarm residents who would never be exposed to the chemical at those levels…

‘They had to do that because they have an agenda. … It’s political, it’s political science,’ Dixon said.

The highest initial dosage was 100,000 ppt, Iamunno said, because exposure studies start by looking at a range of concentrations that may or may not result in health effects. Oysters were also tested at 10,000 ppt, 1,000 ppt and 100 ppt without showing effects, while none of the oysters showed significant levels of bioaccumulation.

‘It should be cautioned that these are preliminary experiments to examine the levels of GenX that may result in the impairment of ecological responses in oysters,’ the UNCW researchers wrote in their report…

Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover, is the only member of the Cape Fear delegation not on the House committee. Butler, who has asked House Speaker Tim Moore three times to place her on the committee, said Thursday’s remarks are insulting to UNCW’s scientists and other professionals who have worked on the issue since it first became public last June.

‘We’re talking about people’s health, we’re talking about mothers who are terrified to mix formulas for their infants with this water,’ Butler said. ‘For them to diminish it in any way is unconscionable.’ ”

Read the full article by Adam Wagner