November 16, 2005
Papers: DuPont hid chemical risk studies
By JOHN HEILPRIN
WASHINGTON - DuPont Co. hid studies showing the risks of a Teflon-related
chemical used to line candy wrappers, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn
bags and hundreds of other food containers, according to internal
company documents and a former employee.
The chemical Zonyl can rub off the liner and get into food. Once
in a person's body, it can break down into perfluorooctanoic acid
and its salts, known as PFOA, a related chemical used in the making
of Teflon-coated cookware.
The Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to decide
whether to classify PFOA as a "likely" human carcinogen.
The Food and Drug Administration, in a letter released Wednesday
evening by DuPont, said it was continuing to monitor the safety
of PFOA chemicals in food.
The DuPont documents were made public Wednesday
by the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization.
At the same time, a former DuPont chemical engineer, Glenn Evers,
told reporters at a news conference at EWG's office that the company
long suppressed its studies on the chemical.
"They are toxic," Evers said of the PFOA chemicals.
"They get into human blood. And they are also in every one
of you. Your loved ones, your fellow citizens."
From 1981 to 2002, Evers helped DuPont develop new products.
He lost his job in 2002 in what DuPont described as a company
Evers had a different view: "It is
my belief DuPont pushed me out of the company" because he
started raising concerns about the chemicals' safety.
Evers said he decided to talk publicly about the PFOA problem
after filing a civil suit against DuPont this month in a Delaware
court. Evers' aim is mainly to "set the record straight"
about the chemical and his own career, said Herb Feuerhake, Evers'
But Evers said he also hoped to influence the outcome of an EPA
hearing later this month on whether DuPont had withheld from EPA
the study on PFOA and possible birth defects. The company could
be fined millions of dollars.
After EWG tracked down Evers - who had provided expert, unpaid
testimony in two lawsuits against DuPont - the 47-year-old Delaware
resident said he talked it over with his priest, who told him,
"`You can't dance with the devil.'"
DuPont denied allegations that PFOA posed a health risk, saying
the Food and Drug Administration had approved the products for
"These products are safe for consumer use," the company
said in a statement. "FDA has approved these materials for
consumer use since the late 1960s, and DuPont has always complied
with all FDA regulations and standards regarding these products."
The company said Evers "had little if any direct involvement
in PFOA issues while employed at DuPont. ... Evers expressed a
wide range of personal opinions that are inaccurate, counter to
FDA's findings, and which DuPont strongly disputes."
The environmental group on Wednesday gave
the FDA and the EPA copies of DuPont-sponsored internal studies
indicating higher dangers from Zonyl than the government knew,
including its ability to migrate into the food.
One of the documents, a 1987 memo, cites
laboratory tests showing the chemical came off paper coating and
leached into foods at levels three times higher than the FDA limit
set in 1967. Another document, a 1973 Dupont study in which rats
and dogs were fed Zonyl for 90 days, said both types of animals
had anemia and damage to their kidneys and livers; the dogs had
higher cholesterol levels.
"What makes this worse is that DuPont knew at that time
that Zonyl breakdown-products, such as PFOA, in food were very
persistent in the environment and were contaminating human blood,
including the fetal cord blood of babies born to DuPont female
employees," EWG Senior Vice President Richard Wiles wrote
to FDA and EPA officials.
Wiles asked the agencies to determine whether DuPont should be
penalized for withholding the studies. Last year, based on another
DuPont document that the environmental group obtained, EPA alleged
the company had repeatedly failed over a 20-year period to submit
required data about PFOA. The document referred to a study that
suggested possible links between PFOA and birth defects in infants.
EPA spokeswoman Eryn Witcher said Wednesday the agency "has
an extensive effort under way to determine the sources of PFOA,
how the public is being exposed, and whether these exposures pose
a potential health risk."
Evers' decision to go public with his concerns may have already
had an impact.
In August, he told a Mississippi court
that all three of DuPont's U.S. plants were releasing "massive
amounts" of dioxin - a class of organic chemicals that EPA
studies have shown pose a possible cancer risk in humans. In that
case, an oyster fisherman who claimed dioxin from a DuPont plant
caused his rare blood cancer was awarded $14 million in actual
damages and his wife received $1.5 million.
He also testified last year in a West Virginia case in which
DuPont agreed to a $107.6 million settlement of a class-action
suit. Residents around a plant near Parkersburg, W.Va., had said
that PFOA contaminated their drinking water supplies. DuPont also
remains the target of another class-action suit over PFOA seeking