January 26, 2006
The News Journal (Delaware)
DuPont to phase out Teflon byproduct
Company agrees to heed EPA call on health issues
By JEFF MONTGOMERY
The Environmental Protection Agency cited global health concerns
Wednesday in calling on DuPont and other companies to end within
10 years worldwide releases of chemicals used to make Teflon and
thousands of other stick- and stain-resistant consumer goods.
DuPont and seven other companies were asked to enroll in the
agency's voluntary "stewardship" program in advance
of the public announcement. Terms of the agreement would require
a 95 percent reduction by 2010, with annual reports due starting
DuPont is the nation's only producer of
perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the main chemical targeted by the
In a prepared statement, DuPont said that it already has agreed
to the EPA's request, and pointed out that the company has cut
emissions of the targeted chemicals by 94 percent since 2000.
The company's Chambers Works plant, in
Deepwater, N.J., at the foot of the Delaware Memorial Bridge,
makes or handles related compounds also chosen for phaseout. Some
are used in an assortment of consumer goods, including fast-food
packaging, popcorn bags and fabric treatments.
A commercial wastewater plant at Chambers
Works has in the past discharged PFOA and similar chemicals into
the Delaware River. Company officials shipped some of the compound
to Chambers Works from West Virginia after groundwater contamination
there was traced to the DuPont's Parkersburg, W.Va., Teflon plant.
In its statement, DuPont noted that Teflon cookware and other
company products are safe for consumer use.
Search for substitute
Federal regulators began to focus on PFOA, sometimes called C-8,
and associated chemicals in the late 1990s after they began turning
up in human and animal blood around the globe. Concern increased
as scientists learned more about PFOA's ability to linger and
accumulate in the environment and living tissues.
"In real terms, what [the EPA request] means is there will
be no continued loadings to the environment of PFOA," said
Susan Hazen, acting assistant administrator in the Office of Pre-
vention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances at the EPA. "The
low levels that are there will remain low and in fact, as time
goes by, will decrease."
Regulators also will seek a requirement that companies regularly
make public reports on releases of PFOA, along with "pre-
cursor" chemicals that might turn into PFOA, Hazen said.
The EPA's proposal, DuPont said, will help cut industrywide emissions
more quickly, "while ensuring continued availability of the
many essential products serving critical industries such as telecommunications,
aerospace, semiconductors, and fire fighting."
DuPont and companies worldwide are racing to develop affordable
alternatives to PFOA for Teflon and similar products. Although
DuPont is a leading supplier, companies based in Germany, Japan
and Italy are among those identified as having produced PFOA.
Environmental group elated
The initiative drew heavy praise from one environmental group
that for years criticized both industry and federal regulators
for failing to acknowledge and eliminate risks from the chemicals.
"This is one of those days when we feel the EPA is at its
best," said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working
Group, an organization based in Washington. "They're asking
industry to err on the side of caution and public safety, and
invent some new ways of doing business."
Some reports found the chemical could cause developmental problems,
cancers and other harm to laboratory animals. The findings prompted
an EPA advisory panel recommendation in 2005 to label PFOA as
a "likely" cancer-causing agent that also may cause
other health problems.
DuPont's Teflon and associated products account for about $1
billion in business. Related families of chemicals, called telomers,
are under study because of their potential to break down into
Company officials say no human health effects are known to be
caused by PFOA. They also say studies have found cookware and
other products made with or using DuPont materials are safe for
Environmental Working Group senior scientist Tim Kropp said risks
"We don't know all that we should know, but what we know
is troubling," Kropp said.
In mid-December, DuPont agreed to pay $16.5 million in fines
and compensatory spending to settle EPA charges the company failed
to report PFOA releases and human exposures, and information about
possible toxic effects.
"For the last several years, we have had an aggressive effort
under way to better understand what, if any, risks PFOA may pose
to the public," Hazen said. "The science is still coming
in, but the concern is there, so acting now to minimize future
releases of PFOA is the right thing to do for our environment
and our health."
Contact Jeff Montgomery at 678-4277 or email@example.com.
News Journal file/FRED COMEGYS
DuPont's Chambers Works plant makes and handles compounds related
to perfluorooctanoic acid, which an EPA panel recommended labeling
a "likely" cancer-causing agent last year.
EPA'S GLOBAL STEWARDSHIP GOALS• Eliminating new PFOA exposures
worldwide by 2015
• Cutting PFOA emissions by 95 percent by 2010
• Annual reporting to the EPA of PFOA levels and related
compounds in company products and emissions
• An agency push to require regular public reporting of
emissions under the annual Toxic Release Inventory program
DuPont commitments under the EPA program:
• Cut worldwide emissions from factories by 98 percent by
• Cap U.S. plant emissions.
• Cap the PFOA content of products and reduce impurities
in products that can break down into PFOA.
Other companies asked to participate:
• Arkema, Inc.
• AGC Chemicals/Asahi Glass
• Ciba Specialty Chemicals
• Clariant Corp.
• Solvay Solexis
Copyright © 2006, The News Journal.