PFOA 2005
August 10, 2005. Union raps DuPont on C-8 disclosure.
By Jeff Montgomery. The News Journal (Delaware).

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August 10, 2005

The News Journal (Delaware)

Union raps DuPont on C-8 disclosure
Steelworkers urge health warnings on products


The United Steelworkers geared up for a bitter labor battle Tuesday when it targeted the DuPont Co. in an announcement calling for public health warnings on products that use a chemical produced by the company.

Union officials said companies have “a legal duty to warn” customers about cancer risks and other health concerns posed by perfluorooctanoic acid, also called PFOA or C-8. The chemical is under investigation and has been tentatively labeled as a likely carcinogen by a federal science panel.

“What we are trying to do is simply allow these companies to warn their customers and consumers that there’s maybe a problem,” said Joseph Drexler, a spokesman for the labor group. “So we’ve done an extensive mailing to carpet cleaning companies, major retail clothing companies and fast food chains.”

But DuPont spokeswoman Leslie A. Beckhoff said the USW’s announcement was part of a two-year-old campaign to use regulatory agencies, customers and public opinion to pressure the company in labor dealings.

“It obviously is another tactic they’re using to embarrass the company and to get us to do things that we might otherwise not do and that might impact our business badly,” Beckhoff said.

USW represents about 1,800 DuPont employees, including 567 at the company’s Chambers Works, located at the foot of the Delaware Memorial Bridge in Deepwater, N.J. In a press release posted on its Web site, the labor group said it is concerned about workers being exposed to PFOA and that the company is not dealing with the issue in “an open and responsible fashion.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has been working with industry officials since 2002 to assess risks from PFOA.

EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said Tuesday that federal officials have yet to release a final report. Some say the EPA’s findings may lead to formal regulation of the substance.

DuPont has disputed claims that PFOA can cause serious health problems.

The federal government, however, has opened both civil and criminal probes into DuPont’s reporting of information involving potential health effects. The company settled a class-action lawsuit for more than $100 million in West Virginia filed by residents whose water was tainted by PFOA from a DuPont plant near the Ohio border. Last month, an Ohio water utility that owns wells tainted by DuPont’s PFOA reported finding high levels of the same chemical in the blood of 24 customers.

DuPont and other companies using PFOA have committed to reduce their reliance on the compound and to seek substitutes.
“DuPont knew about this 25 years ago. I think it’s irresponsible of them to let this go this long and not have a substitute,” said Jim Rowe, president of USW Local 943 at Chambers Works.

The union sent out letters or circulars cautioning companies like W.L. Gore, GAP, Eddie Bauer, Wal Mart and McDonalds – all of which use the compound in their products – that they may face legal claims if they fail to warn customers about a chemical that eventually harms them.

The EPA began its review after reports that a few parts per billion of PFOA could be found in the blood of most Americans, including 25 customers of Ohio’s Little Hocking water authority who were tested. They had blood levels averaging 70 to 100 times higher than the 3 to 5 parts per billion common across the country. The Ohio group’s levels ranged from 112 to 1,040 parts per billion.

The Little Hocking Water Association found C-8 concentrations ranging from 112 parts per billion to more than 1,000 parts per billion in two dozen customers tested.

Association general manager Robert L. Griffin said in a letter to the EPA that the water agency arranged for the samples “recognizing the threats to human health” posed by PFOA.

In late July, the University of Pennsylvania reported finding similar results in a larger blood-testing study that focused on people whose water comes from wells near DuPont’s Parkersburg, W. Va., plant.

Contact Jeff Montgomery at 678-4277 or

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