Thursday, December 15, 2005

DuPont Fined $10 Million For Chemical Coverup

The Environmental Protection Agency has fined the DuPont corporation $10 million for failing to report to the agency that Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA,had been found in water and had serious health effects. PFOA is a chemical used to make Teflon and is one of DuPont's most profitable products, making the company around $200 million every year.

On the whole, DuPont got off pretty cheaply. EPA could have fined them as much as $300 million, but settled for $10.25 million in fines and $6.25 million in environmental projects because they feared it would have been difficult to get larger fines for violations dating back more than 20 years. The company will also "spend $5 million to study Teflon-related chemicals in grease- and stain-resistant coatings for carpets, clothing and food wrappers."

DuPont had at first claimed that there was no requirement to report the water contamination to EPA because there were no known health effects. Documents were later found showing that DuPont was lying:
In an eight-count complaint, the agency accused DuPont of failing to submit a 1981 study that revealed PFOA was passed from pregnant employees to their fetuses. Two of five babies born to Teflon plant employees that year had eye and face defects similar to those found in newborn rats exposed to the chemical, according to company records.

The EPA said DuPont also withheld three 1997 studies that found rats died from inhaling chemicals related to PFOA, and more recent findings that high levels of the chemical were in the blood of people living near the West Virginia plant where Teflon is made.
In addition to the $10.3 million fine,
The company already agreed to pay at least $107 million to settle the class-action lawsuit. A criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department is continuing.

Meanwhile, the EPA's ongoing review of health risks eventually could lead to rules that limit or phase out the use of PFOA.

"This is the just the beginning," said Tim Kropp, senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research organization. "Paying a fine doesn't get the chemical out of people's blood."
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