8 May 2003
DUPONT CHEMICAL IS TOXIC
May 8, 2003
West Virginia judge has found that a chemical used to make Teflon
is toxic and has punished DuPont for destroying documents as it
defends itself in a class-action lawsuit involving the chemical.
lawsuit was filed in August 2001 on behalf of as many as 50,000
people who live near a DuPont plant along the Ohio River, including
residents in West Virginia and Ohio who drank from contaminated
public water supplies.
latest ruling orders the company to pay for blood tests to measure
exposure to ammonium perfluorooctanoate, also known as C8.
ruling also orders DuPont to pay the plaintiffs' attorney fees and
other costs for delays in providing some company documents and destroying
has until late May to appeal the ruling. In a written statement,
the company said that the chemical doesn't pose a health hazard
and that the ruling was based on "erroneous and meritless''
in DuPont's 50 years of experience with C8 indicates it is a hazard,
and nothing in the toxicity for C8 suggests the class members (plaintiffs)
are at any risk whatsoever,'' DuPont attorney Larry Janssen said
yesterday in a written statement.
Wood County Circuit Judge George Hill said in his May 1 ruling that
people near the plant were "unwittingly exposed'' to the chemical
from the plant.
also called C8 "toxic and hazardous to humans.''
Cincinnati attorney representing the plaintiffs declined to comment.
Griffin, general manager of the Little Hocking Water Association,
said he hopes the ruling will answer questions about the extent
of his customers' exposure.
in the blood of people nationwide, apparently,'' Griffin said. "It's
a question of whether it's more here than elsewhere.''
month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched a scientific
study of the potential health hazards of the chemical.
has been used for more than 50 years to produce household products
that resist water, grease, stains and other chemicals.
EPA inquiry came after C8 was found in drinking water in Ohio and
West Virginia and in the blood of DuPont workers. Studies by DuPont
and 3M, once the leading manufacturer of C8, found the chemical
in human blood nationwide.
unclear how the chemical is finding its way into people's blood.
Possibilities include exposure to air or water contaminated during
the manufacturing process, or contact with consumer products that
have been treated with the chemical.
of C8 in the blood of people living near the plant could be 1,000
times higher than the general population, according to calculations
based on a study DuPont published in 2001. The company now says
the study was flawed.
Hill ruled the company should pay for blood tests to measure exposure
also ruled that DuPont had ignored court orders to make records
a letter to the judge, DuPont acknowledged that Gerald R. Kennedy,
the company's lead toxicologist on C8 issues, had destroyed "written
and electronic documents'' about the chemical.
asked the plaintiffs' attorneys to submit expenses incurred because
of DuPont's violations of evidence rules and court orders. DuPont,
the judge ruled, will be required to reimburse them.