PFOA 2005
Top engineer: DuPont hid dangers for years of chemical within teflon, paper products.
By Mark Gruenberg. December 6, 2005.


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December 6, 2005

ILCA Online, Washington D.C.


By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer

WASHINGTON (PAI) – A former top engineer for DuPont, plus company documents he disclosed, show that for at least 20 years, the firm hid the dangers of a cancer-causing chemical mixture, PFOA, that is in both Teflon and paper products. At a Washington press conference in mid-November by the Environmental Working Group, Glenn Evers, a 22-year DuPont veteran and former chair of its technical committee, described DuPont efforts to keep using the chemical mixture, ammonium perfluorooctanic acid, also known as PFOA or C8. The environmental group said a federal scientific board identified PFOA/C8 as cancer-causing.

PFOA is one of a class of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), the Environmental Working Group explained. “PFCs pollute the blood of over 90 percent of Americans, are widespread in the food supply, are some of the most persistent synthetic chemicals known, and have health risks ranging from increased cholesterol levels to reproductive and developmental effects to cancer,” it told the Bush administration’s Environmental Protection Agency in a letter sent simultaneously with the disclosures.

EWG asked EPA to fine DuPont more than $300 million for covering up the data, but the agency reached a settlement–terms undisclosed–with DuPont on Nov. 29.

“PFOA (is) a Teflon related chemical that was recommended for classification as a likely human carcinogen by the EPA’s independent Science Advisory Board,” its letter reminded the agency. EWG also sent Evers’ statements and internal DuPont evidence.

The Steel Workers have publicized the threat of PFOA/C8. USW represents 1,800 DuPont workers nationwide, though not at the DuPont plants in Parkersburg, W. Va., and Fayetteville, N.C., where PFOA/C8 contaminated rivers and groundwater.

Early this year, DuPont settled a lawsuit by Parkersburg residents angered over its refusal to admit the contamination by paying $120 million. And USW has distributed literature to DuPont workers outside the Fayetteville plant, discussing C8's danger.

C8/PFOA “affects these communities and these workers, and we’re the only national union presence” in the chemical industry, explained USW spokeswoman Lynn Baker. Her division of USW is the former PACE and, before that, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers. “It makes sense for us to try to help these workers” because of the union’s expertise in chemicals “and because nobody else is” helping them, she adds.

Evers was DuPont’s “top engineer involved with designing and developing new uses of grease-resistant, or perfluorinated, chemical-based coating for paper food packaging,” EWG said. He also called himself “a dedicated company man.”

DuPont has denied PFOA/C8's danger, saying “it is not aware” the product is responsible for the illnesses EWG and the lawsuit cites. "If we had any reason to believe that [there] was a safety issue for fluorinated telomers based products, we wouldn't have commercialized them," DuPont Director of Planning and Technology, Robert Ritchie, told a newspaper in its headquarters, Wilmington, Del., two years ago.

Previous data about PFOA/C8 came from that Parkersburg lawsuit and a shareholders’ complaint to federal regulators against DuPont officials. They said the company’s Parkersburg fine and the coverup of dangers of PFOA affects its stock price and the value of their holdings.

Data Evers disclosed and that EWG and he turned over to Bush’s EPA included:

* In the mid-1960s, DuPont convinced the federal Food and Drug Administration to give C8 and its class of chemicals a quick 90-day test, rather than the normal 2-year test, before licensing, to see “how much of the paper chemical coating, which is applied to give packaging grease or liquid resistance, could contaminate food.” In return, there would be a 1,000-fold increase in the “safe” level of PFOA in humans, Evers said.

That test was based on the presumption that PFOA would quickly move through humans, not remain. But “as a company expert,” Evers found DuPont knew, by 1981, that PFOA and similar chemicals accumulate and stay inside humans. He said he did not know if DuPont ever told federal officials about that. EWG also released a 1973 DuPont toxicological study “in which it was unable to find a safe level of exposure in lab animals, and that the chemicals were toxic to the kidneys, liver and blood.”

* Another chemical, Zonyl, also used in packaging, breaks down within the body and is metabolized into PFOA. A 1987 DuPont document shows the firm’s Dr. Richard Goldbaum “found the company's marquee paper packaging coating chemical, Zonyl RP, could contaminate food at over three times the federal safety standard, while two effective alternatives contaminated food at half the federal maximum level.”
Evers, who also received the study results, went to Goldbaum and Goldbaum’s supervisor. He argued the high levels were “an enormous problem” and asked them to yank Zonyl –and PFOA with it–from the market. They told him they would “take care of it” but DuPont continued to market the chemicals and put them into paper packaging.

DuPont did not recall Zonyl, shelved the safer alternatives, and continued to make–for 18 years–chemicals that would contaminate consumers' blood, Evers said.

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