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DuPont Denies It Withheld Studies Showing Teflon Health Risks

Studies found chemical accumulates in body and does not break down

(ENS) -- Chemical giant DuPont denied August 12 it suppressed studies that indicated a chemical used to manufacture Teflon poses risks to human health and the environment.

"We are confident that we have met all reporting obligations," said DuPont General Counsel Stacey Mobley.

The comments come in response to a petition filed in July by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that charges the company with violating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and another federal law by failing to submit to the agency information regarding the synthetic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C-8. PFOA is a processing aid used in the manufacturing of fluoropolymers.

Dupont is the only American manufacturer of PFOA and has denied any health risks from the chemical, which is used to make dozens of popular consumer products, including Teflon and other non-stick coated cookware, carpet protectors, clothing, fast food packaging, and various cleaning, textile and paper products.

Studies of PFOA have raised a number of potential toxicity concerns because it has been found to accumulate in human blood and does not appear to break down in the environment.

In its petition the EPA said DuPont should have reported, under the Toxic Substances Control Act, 1981 findings of PFOA in blood samples taken from pregnant workers at the company's Parkersburg, West Virginia plant. At least one woman had transferred the chemical to her fetus.

It also said DuPont should have reported information gathered in 1991 that the chemical was in the water supplies of nearby communities at a greater level than the company's exposure guidelines.

DuPont believes the blood monitoring data point recorded in 1981 did not meet the "substantial risk" threshold that would require reporting under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

"Scientific evidence confirms that the trace amount of PFOA found in this one data point would pose no risk to human health," said Mobley. "In the absence of substantial risk of harm, the information is simply not required to be reported."

Mobley called the EPA's claim that the company should have reported the 1991 information about levels of the chemical in water supplies "particularly perplexing."

"It is difficult to understand how the agency can claim we committed a reporting violation based on a voluntary DuPont guideline that is almost 150 times more protective than EPA's safety guidance for drinking water -- a standard adopted in 2002 by EPA Regions III and V," Mobley said.

The EPA petition also said DuPont failed in 1997 to provide the agency with all toxicological information the company had regarding PFOA, despite an agency request for this information under the terms of a permit.

DuPont says the information in dispute was not a toxicological study and that the company fully complied with the EPA's request.

"We provided the agency with the results of 22 toxicology studies, including studies of acute, chronic, developmental, genetic, and aquatic toxicity," said Mobley. "We responded completely and accurately to EPA's request, providing all relevant information."

Mobley said the company supports the EPA's ongoing risk assessment of PFOA and recognizes that there are questions about the persistence of the chemical.

"Our company has been and will continue to be forthright in providing information to the EPA that goes beyond compliance and, at the same time, helps the agency's efforts to improve its understanding of PFOA," Mobley said.

The Environmental Working Group, a research organization that has spearheaded an effort to publicize the PFOA issue, said DuPont's response is neither surprising nor convincing.

"If it truly is DuPont's corporate philosophy not to disclose information they collect about chemical contamination of their worker's fetuses or the tap water of the communities they operate in, it makes you wonder what else the company knows but is not telling the public about their products and facilities," said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.

The EPA's complaint against DuPont resulted from an April 2003 Environmental Working Group petition to the agency that brought undisclosed studies to light after they were discovered in ongoing litigation in West Virginia.

Some 3,000 individuals living near the Parkersburg plant have filed a class action suit against DuPont. They allege that PFOA pollution from the facility has contaminated local tap water and presents serious public health risks -- the trial is set to start next month.

Environmental Working Group Senior Scientist Dr. Timothy Kropp said DuPont's response "shows that it is an unrepentant global polluter which needs to face the maximum fine EPA can levy."

The EPA has not proposed a specific penalty, but the agency says it has the authority to seek a penalty of $25,000 per day for violations before January 30, 1997, and up to $27,500 per day for violations thereafter, for each day that DuPont failed to report the information. The total fine could exceed $300 million.

DuPont has asked for a hearing to contest the allegations before an administrative law judge. The EPA says it is reviewing the company's request.

© 2004 Environment News Service and reprinted by special permission

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Albion Monitor August 13, 2004 (

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