13 April 2003
confronted over chemical's safety
EPA and W. Va. lawsuit challenge risks posed by C-8, used to make
regulators and a class action lawsuit have challenged the safety
of a chemical the DuPont Co. uses to make Teflon, its best-known
part of an ongoing review of ammonium perfluorooctanoate, also called
C-8, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently questioned
the research on which DuPont relies to prove that C-8, now unregulated,
a written statement last month, the EPA said, "There remains
considerable scientific uncertainty regarding potential risks."
The agency, which regulates industrial toxic emissions, also said
it soon will "announce a series of aggressive steps that it
will take to gather additional scientific information."
also faces a class action lawsuit on behalf of anyone who drank
water allegedly contaminated by the chemical. Since DuPont began
using C-8 in 1951 at its Washington Works facility on the Ohio River
near Parkersburg, W.Va., the company has released waste containing
the chemical into the air and river, according to court records.
The records say DuPont also dumped some C-8 waste into landfills
for years, and at least 30,000 households are served by utilities
whose water contained C-8.
stands by C-8, however, saying the chemical does not harm human
beings. The company dismisses studies by 3M Co., the original manufacturer
of the chemical, that found it causes cancers and liver damage in
rats. It also discounts early observations of birth defects in children
of its own employees.
said the EPA evaluation of C-8 had resulted in "an inappropriate
Co. began to phase out the chemical in 2000 and stopped selling
it last year, citing its "principles of responsible environmental
started manufacturing C-8 in October at a plant in Fayetteville,
N.C., for its own use and for sale. DuPont also has begun to dispose
of C-8 waste along the Delaware River as part of its efforts to
control the pollution problem on the Ohio River.
officials said disposing of C-8 waste in Delaware waters poses no
company ships C-8 contaminated wastewater by train from West Virginia
to its Chambers Works plant in Deepwater, N.J. In 1999, the most
recent year for which information was available, the company released
treated wastewater containing nearly 10,000 pounds of the chemical
into the river.
has been manufacturing limited amounts of Teflon without C-8 for
more than a year. But DuPont officials said there is no "safe,
technically sound and environmentally protective" way to make
Teflon without C-8.
is a moneymaker
is at stake for DuPont. The company is jettisoning many older, commodity
chemicals, including nylon, as it tries to increase business such
as fabrics made from genetically engineered crops and plastics for
TV displays thinner than anything now available.
most of those businesses are years from turning a profit. Teflon
is among the products that help finance that transition, and DuPont
is confident Teflon will remain a top product.
DuPont would not discuss profits from Teflon, company executive
Richard J. Angiullo said in a November deposition that products
made using C-8 accounted for $200 million in after-tax profits in
recent decades, DuPont has abandoned some of its most profitable
products because of health and environmental concerns. Among them
are chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants and lead compounds for high-octane
gasoline. More recently, it ceased production of Benlate fungicide
and has paid more than $1.7 billion as the result of lawsuits over
is no evidence or data that demonstrates [C-8] causes adverse human
health effects," said Anguillo, who is vice president of the
DuPont division overseeing most Teflon production.
said he is confident about Teflon's future.
A. Cook, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working
Group, a nonprofit environmental group that monitors corporate pollution,
has fought with DuPont over contaminated drinking-water wells along
the Ohio River. DuPont has withheld information about the dangers
of C-8 over the years and continues to under state its danger, he
is the most persistent chemical ever made, and according to most
scientists it has infinite stability in the environment," Cook
wrote last month in a letter to West Virginia Gov. Robert Wise.
"This means that all of it ever made will keep cycling through
the environment and through people - literally forever."
detail C-8 dumping
about C-8 first arose at DuPont's Washington Works in West Virginia,
where the company uses C-8 to make raw Teflon.
the 1950s and 1960s, DuPont vented incinerated waste into the air
and dumped waste directly into the Ohio River, according to company
documents released in a private lawsuit settled in 2001. The company
also disposed of it in a landfill. C-8 migrated from those sources
into the tap water of surrounding communities, according to the
the early 1980s, DuPont purchased hilly parcels of West Virginia
land owned by brothers Wilbur Earl, Jim and Jack Tennant. In 1984,
the company began dumping waste containing C-8 into an unlined landfill
in one of the hollows, records show.
undated, internal DuPont memo among the records listed the pros
and cons of dumping C-8 into a landfill on land formerly owned by
the Tennants. Among the pros: "easy to do - less expensive."
Among the cons: "may not protect groundwater."
and other toxic chemicals did pollute the groundwater. In 1996,
West Virginia fined DuPont a total of $250,000 after regulators
reported dead livestock and wildlife near the landfill, and leakage
from the unlined landfill into an Ohio River tributary.
Tennants sued DuPont in July 1999, alleging several hundred cows
died after drinking from streams and ponds near the landfill. DuPont
settled that case in 2001. Details are confidential, but more than
100,000 pages of company documents disclosed in that lawsuit became
the basis of a class-action lawsuit certified last year on behalf
of Ohio River Valley residents.
Cincinnati-based law firm Taft, Stettinius & Hollister has filed
the class-action lawsuit against DuPont and the Lubeck Public Service
district, the local water utility. The lawsuit alleges that DuPont
and Lubek contaminated the region's drinking water. It seeks unspecified
monetary damages, monitoring of residents' health and a reduction
of C-8 emissions at Washington Works.
began testing drinking water from businesses and homes in the region
in 1984 "to learn more about C-8," Angiullo said. But
DuPont said it did not begin to inform the public of what it found
until the late 1980s. Levels in DuPont's test ranged as high as
2.2 parts per billion, according to company documents.
did not believe we had any reason to be concerned at these levels,"
Griffin, general manager of the Little Hocking, Ohio, water authority,
said he had no record of ever having been notified that DuPont had
found C-8 in its tap water after testing it.
year, the authority closed one of its four drinking water wells
after finding C-8 levels of 8 ppb.
said in a letter to the utility's 12,000 customers in February 2002
that the utility was "shocked" to learn of the contamination.
birth defects seen
since the mid-1970s have suggested that C-8 is toxic to animals.
But DuPont has said it is harmless to people.
of the most critical questions about C-8's toxicity were raised
by its original manufacturer. Amid controversy about a family of
related compounds, 3M in the mid-1970s began two decades of studies
that found C-8 caused cancers in rats whether inhaled, swallowed
or absorbed through the skin. The American Conference of Governmental
Industrial Hygienists, which recommends exposure standards for most
industrial chemicals, agrees C-8 causes cancer in animals. So does
of 3M workers over decades, however, have not conclusively linked
C-8 to increased mortality or health problems in people.
said the way cancer develops in rats is different from the way it
develops in human beings, and that some chemicals that cause cancer
in rats do not cause cancer in people. An early 3M study also found
birth defects in the eyes of rat fetuses exposed to C-8.
removed women from the Teflon operations at Washington Works in
April 1981 after learning of the 3M study. DuPont reassigned the
women to the plant after conducting its own review, saying 3M's
study was flawed.
that action, DuPont noted eye and nostril defects in two of the
seven children born to the women from 1979-1981, according to an
internal memo disclosed during the now-settled lawsuit. DuPont said
in a written statement Friday that the internal memo recorded only
one confirmed birth defect. "There is no indication that it
was caused by exposure to [C-8]," the statement said.
was responding to a letter the Environmental Working Group wrote
Friday to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman alleging that
the company violated federal disclosure laws by failing to report
birth defects. The EPA didn't immediately comment but is expected
to discuss the matter at a press conference Monday in Washington.
to identify women who worked at Washington Works at the time were
women of childbearing age now work in Washington Works' Teflon operations.
DuPont expects women will work in C-8 production operations in Fayetteville,
although none are now. "We have no concerns that would move
us to preclude women from working in any areas where C-8 is used,"
said DuPont's Angiullo.
DuPont rejects implications for people from studies showing that
C-8 caused cancer in animals, the company in a March 1982 memo cited
animal studies to "conclude that female employees of childbearing
capability no longer need to be excluded from areas where there
is potential for exposure to C-8." They went back to work.
disingenuous for DuPont to pick and choose how it wants to use animal
studies," said Kristina Thayer, the Environmental Working Group's
recent studies have led 3M to abandon C-8 sales and all production
but a small amount for its own use.
studies in 1997 and 1998, 3M concluded there was "an apparent
widespread distribution" of C-8 and a closely related compound
in the general population. According to studies 3M submitted to
the government in 2001, C-8 was detected in the blood of 96 percent
of 598 children tested in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
the prevalence of the chemical in humans, 3M in 2000 announced plans
to phase out production of C-8 and all related chemicals for commercial
sale made at 3M plants in Alabama, Minnesota and Belgium.
precaution cost its shareholders. In addition to losing DuPont and
other C-8 customers, it was forced to reformulate Scotchgard, its
well-known stain-proofing product for upholstery and other household
goods, which contained a closely related compound. That led to a
$168 million charge against pretax earnings in 2000. The company
pulled several Scotchgard products from the market while reformulating
however, has cited 3M's ultimate conclusion that C-8 has no ill
effects on people. A DuPont spokesman said 3M's decision "wasn't
motivated by health concerns."
safe-exposure limit set
has considered setting a limit for safe exposure to C-8. Senior
DuPont toxicologist Gerald Kennedy proposed in a June 1987 memo,
that 0.5 parts per million would be "an acceptable level"
for C-8 in the blood of workers.
year, DuPont recommended that "once a safe level is established,
those personnel exceeding 50 percent of this level will be required
to be removed from the exposure area," according to another
DuPont never adopted a blood-level limit, although it still tests
has never been a medical need," said Robert Rickard, director
of DuPont's Haskell Laboratory for Health and Environmental Studies
wrote to the EPA in January 2001 to report that, among workers tested
the previous year, the average exposure was 1.53 parts per million
- three times higher than the limit it once considered for workers.
DuPont disputes C-8 is a health hazard, since the early 1990s the
company has imposed what it calls a "community exposure guideline"
of up to 3 ppb of C-8 in water and air in planning how it makes
Teflon and controls resulting waste. DuPont calls the voluntary
should not conclude that exposure over that is damaging to health,"
West Virginia, testing of several local wells revealed concentrations
far exceeding DuPont's community guideline. One test sample in a
Little Hocking well field yielded a level of 78 ppb, utility manager
October 2001 consent decree between DuPont and the EPA's West Virginia
and Ohio regional branches specified DuPont would have to provide
temporary alternative sources of drinking water should concentrations
of C-8 be found at or above 14 ppb in ongoing testing in the region.
The level, since raised to 150 ppb, has been criticized by the Environmental
high levels haven't turned up in drinking water in tests by a toxicology
group commissioned by West Virginia environmental officials.
said it is committed to limiting emissions of C-8 from the Fayetteville
plant to 200 pounds annually. Environmental activists said that
even that amount may not be safe, given how the chemical lingers
in the human body.
West Virginia, where it uses C-8 to make Teflon, DuPont has installed
scrubbers that a spokeswoman said eventually will contain more than
90 percent of C-8 emissions at its Washington Works plant. The company
said they totaled just over 20,000 pounds last year, 75 percent
less than in 1999.
not good enough for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. In
a Jan. 7, 2003, letter to DuPont, director Christopher Jones said
the company's efforts were not sufficient to guarantee that air
pollution would continue to decrease. Ohio EPA specifically asked
that DuPont work with West Virginia officials to establish and abide
by a limit for air emissions.
also is grappling with how federal regulation would affect its disposal
of C-8 waste into the Delaware River and Delaware Bay. As a result
of the pollution-control measures at Washington Works, the company
has started shipping wastewater containing C-8 by rail to its Chambers
Works treatment plant.
effluents are regulated and in compliance with Clean Water Act permits,"
said DuPont spokeswoman Diane Shomper. The EPA's eventual ruling
on C-8 could alter that.
the EPA's statement last month that further research is needed to
establish the safety of C-8, DuPont issued statements defending
the chemical and stating Teflon's best known use - in non-stick
pans - is safe.
also said it does not oppose the regulation of C-8.
in this case would be most welcome," Angiullo said. "Because
it would supply some assurance to society at large" that DuPont
is not polluting or otherwise threatening the environment and human