November 15, 2005
The Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)
Food wrappers have excess
C8, engineer says
By Ken Ward Jr.
French-fry boxes, microwave popcorn bags and pet food containers
could contain unsafe amounts of the toxic chemical C8, a longtime
DuPont Co. chemical engineer testified last year in a lawsuit
against the company.
Glenn R. Evers, who left DuPont in 2002, said the company discovered
the problem but did nothing about it.
“We were out of compliance,” said Evers, who received
an internal DuPont e-mail that described the findings of a company
“It was one of these ‘We are in deep trouble’
memos,” Evers recalled. “Everybody who knew what the
extraction limits were knew there was a problem.”
DuPont sells a variety of products called telomers, some of which
are used in grease-repellent coatings for food packaging.
C8 is not used to make these products. But telomers are chemical
cousins to C8. Scientists believe that telomers break down to
form C8. They worry that this breakdown could be at least partly
responsible for wide distribution of C8 in the environment around
DuPont says C8 is present in telomer products in only tiny amounts,
and does not pose any public health threat.
“These products are safe,” DuPont chemist Bob Bock
said last week.
The debate over the potential dangers of C8 that leaches from
telomers is an emerging part of the ongoing battle over chemicals
that help create some of DuPont’s best-known and most-popular
C8 is another name for ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or PFOA.
It is part of a family of chemicals called fluoropolymers. DuPont
has used the chemical since the 1950s at its Washington Works
plant south of Parkersburg to make Teflon and other similar nonstick
and stain-resistant products.
For decades, C8 — and DuPont’s emissions of it —
have essentially been unregulated by state and federal agencies.
Fueled in large part by internal corporate records uncovered by
lawyers for Wood County residents, the EPA in April 2003 launched
a high-priority investigation of C8’s potential dangers.
In September 2004, DuPont announced it would pay $107.6 million
to settle the residents’ suit, which alleged the company
poisoned drinking water for thousands of homes.
During the months before the settlement, residents’ lawyers
obtained sworn statements from a variety of current and former
In April 2004, Evers answered questions under oath from the residents’
lawyers for nearly eight hours.
During this interview, called a deposition,
Evers said DuPont learned from a 1966 study that chemicals like
C8 can be transferred to food if they are used as package coatings.
DuPont also knew from a study that dogs that had been fed fluoro-chemicals
like C8 developed enlarged livers.
When the EPA launched its C8 review, the agency said it was concerned
about studies that showed the chemical could cause development
effects in laboratory animals. Agency officials were also worried
about research that suggests it may be linked to cancer.
Researchers are finding that people around the world have C8
in their blood. The blood levels may be generally very small,
but it is unclear whether these amounts are dangerous.
For years, DuPont purchased the C8 it used from 3M. But in May
2000, 3M announced that it would phase out the product because
of concerns about its safety.
In his deposition, Evers said the 3M announcement
had DuPont officials “licking their chops, saying there
is $150 million worth of fluorochemicals sales that we can jump
Earlier, DuPont had worked out a deal with the federal Food and
Drug Administration to certify the use of its telomer products
for food package coatings, Evers testified.
FDA officials told DuPont that this was a new product, and that
the company should do a two-year study first, Evers said.
In response, DuPont said it had found no health effects at less
than 1,000 parts per million of C8. The FDA said that wasn’t
“It was a negotiating process,” Evers testified.
“What they did was they said what limit can we have that
would be acceptable, and FDA said no higher than 0.1 parts per
million extractable. So that translates to a pretty good safety
margin for extraction.”
DuPont convinced the FDA that its product ZONYL RP would extract
to a range of 0.1 to 0.25 parts per million, Evers said. “FDA
said, ‘Fine. You are certified,’” Evers said.
Later, DuPont discovered that ZONYL RP
was leaching more than 0.5 parts per million of C8 into food packaging,
“What it meant was that we were out of compliance for that
particular product,” Evers said. “We shouldn’t
be selling it to the paper industry. More
of the fluorochemicals product was extracting from the paper into
water than what FDA allowed.”
DuPont officials declined to answer specific questions about
Instead, the Wilmington, Del.-based company issued a general
statement that it “does not sell any product or material
into the paper industry that has not been approved for its regulated
use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”
“DuPont products are compliant with all FDA applications
and are safe for their intended uses,” the statement said.
An FDA spokesman could not be reached for comment on Evers’
testimony. Previously, FDA officials have said that they do not
believe the levels of C8 in food packaging are a threat to public
In July 2004, the EPA sued DuPont for allegedly hiding important
information about C8’s potential health effects from regulators.
Under federal law, DuPont could face more than $300 million in
But, DuPont and the EPA have said they have reached an “agreement
in principle.” An announcement about the settlement terms
could come as soon as Nov. 23, the deadline for a key filing in
the EPA’s case.
As part of its suit, the EPA subpoenaed from the Wood County
residents’ lawyers dozens of previously confidential depositions
and other documents about C8.
The EPA has released some of those records
in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Charleston
Gazette. A transcript of Evers’ deposition is among the
records that the EPA has disclosed.
In the interview, Evers said he was surprised that DuPont did
not take action on the telomer issue.
“When something happens that your process is out of whack
where it is out of compliance with federal regulation, DuPont
normally, because they are a good, safe company, will follow up
and do some work on it and find out what is going on,” Evers
Evers worked for DuPont for more than 20 years, from 1981 to
2002. It is not clear why he left.
Evers said he hired a lawyer because DuPont
“threatened to prosecute me” and “I needed somebody
who would protect my interest and allow me to do what is right.”
Neither Evers nor his lawyer returned phone calls.
When Evers’ testimony got a brief
mention in a Chicago Tribune article in January, DuPont officials
labeled him a “disgruntled employee with little direct knowledge”
Last week, DuPont corporate spokesman R. Clifton Webb declined
to elaborate on that description. “We’re not going
to comment on Evers,” Webb said.
To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.