By Dr. Jim Mercola
Deceptive and manipulative public relations strategies are the standard approach of the chemical industry.
People may believe chemical companies would strive to create chemicals that are as harmless as possible, and to provide strict safety instructions for use when they’re not, but history has shown that this isn’t the case.
Instead, the industry promotes chemicals as harmless even when they are well aware of the risks.
What’s worse, companies have been repeatedly found to have lied to federal and local regulators, consumers, and even their own employees about the toxicity of various chemicals.
They have also willfully ignored pollution problems caused by their activities. A classic example of this is the recent article I posted on the use of lead by the gasoline industry, which dumped millions of tons of lead into the environment over 80 years.
‘Epic’ Legal Battle Against DuPont Sheds Light on Deceptive Practices
DuPont is one such company, which has recently seen a slew of negative press following the filing of thousands of personal injury claims in what The Intercept1 calls “an epic legal battle” against the company — a battle that has been waged for the last 15 years, with little media coverage.
According to The Intercept:
“Concerns about the safety of Teflon, C8, and other long-chain perfluorinated chemicals first came to wide public attention more than a decade ago, but the story of DuPont’s long involvement with C8 has never been fully told…
[A] long trail of documents has emerged that casts new light on C8, DuPont, and the fitful attempts of the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with a threat to public health.
This story is based on many of those documents, which until they were entered into evidence for these trials had been hidden away in DuPont’s files.
Among them are write-ups of experiments on rats, dogs, and rabbits showing that C8 was associated with a wide range of health problems that sometimes killed the lab animals.”
DuPont’s Toxic Legacy: PFOAs
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, also known as C8), was an essential ingredient in DuPont’s non-stick cookware for decades.
The chemical is also used in hundreds of other non-stick and stain-resistant products, from microwave popcorn bags and fast-food wrappers to waterproof clothing and soil-repellant carpet and furniture treatments.
It’s also found in flame retardant chemicals, and hence items treated with flame retardants, which run the gamut from children’s items to furniture and electronics.
PFOA is a fluorinated chemical — it’s the fluorine atoms that provide that hallmark slipperiness. I first became aware of the dangers of fluoride-impregnated non-stick coatings back in 2001, and have warned about using such products ever since.
According to the CDC’s “Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals,”2 published in 2009, 12 different perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) were detected in Americans, including PFOA.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR):3
“Once in your body, perfluoroalkyls tend to remain unchanged for long periods of time. The most commonly used perfluoroalkyls (PFOA and PFOS) stay in the body for many years. It takes approximately four years for the level in the body to go down by half, even if no more is taken in.”
While there’s a dizzying array of chemical names in this group of chemicals, if an item is either non-stick, waterproof, or stain-resistant, it has some type of fluoride-impregnated coating that provides the slipperiness, and you can assume it can be problematic.
Internal Documents Suggest DuPont Hid Harms of PFOA
PFOA is now the subject of about 3,500 personal injury claims against DuPont, including 37 claims for wrongful death.
This legal process has uncovered hundreds of internal documents revealing that DuPont knew of the chemical’s danger to the public and employees, probably as early as 1961, yet continued using it without warning of its risks.
In fact, 10 years ago, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined DuPont $16.5 million for withholding decades’ worth of information about health hazards associated with PFOA. At the time, that fine was the largest the EPA had ever assessed, but it was still too small to act as a deterrent.
As noted in a report4 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) titled “Poisoned Legacy:”
“DuPont had long known that PFOA caused cancer, had poisoned drinking water in the mid-Ohio River Valley, and polluted the blood of people and animals worldwide. But it never told its workers, local officials and residents, state regulators, or the EPA.”
In 2005, a panel of three scientists was convened as part of a settlement to determine the chemical’s effects on people. After seven years of research, the results of which are detailed in more than three dozen peer-reviewed papers,5 the C8 Science Panel linked PFOA to:
· Ulcerative colitis
· High cholesterol
· Pregnancy-induced hypertension
· Testicular and kidney cancer
Its health effects were deemed to be widespread and occurred even at very low exposure levels. According to The Intercept, DuPont was aware of many of these risks, yet kept its knowledge secret — even from its own workers, who came into direct and prolonged contact with the chemical.
Confidential documents from 1980 show the company knew the lethal oral dose of C8 in rhesus monkeys was one ounce per 150 pounds. Tests had also demonstrated that the chemical was most toxic when inhaled, yet the risk to workers was deemed inconclusive.
PFOA Pollution May Be Permanent
The Intercept’s three-part exposé6 titled “The Teflon Toxin: Dupont and the Chemistry of Deception” details DuPont’s long and extensive history of deception, noting that:
“Another revelation about C8 makes all of this more disturbing and gives the upcoming trials… global significance: This deadly chemical that DuPont continued to use well after it knew it was linked to health problems is now practically everywhere.
A man-made compound that didn’t exist a century ago, C8 is in the blood of 99.7 percent of Americans, according to a 2007 analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as in newborn human babies, breast milk, and umbilical cord blood.
A growing group of scientists have been tracking the chemical’s spread through the environment, documenting its presence in a wide range of wildlife, including Loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, harbor seals, polar bears, caribou, walruses, bald eagles, lions, tigers, and arctic birds.
Although DuPont no longer uses C8, fully removing the chemical from all the bodies of water and bloodstreams it pollutes is now impossible. And, because it is so chemically stable — in fact, as far as scientists can determine, it never breaks down — C8 is expected to remain on the planet well after humans are gone from it.”
According to the article, if DuPont and the seven other chemical companies (including 3M) responsible for the global C8/PFOA pollution were actually forced to clean up their mess, the costs would be “astronomical.”
PFOA Dubbed the ‘Tobacco of the Chemical Industry’
Like tobacco, C8 litigation may forever change how people view these chemicals. In fact, PFOA is now being called the “tobacco of the chemical industry” because of the decades-long corporate cover-up of its health effects, the lawsuits pending, and how difficult it is to make companies accountable for producing disease-causing products, even after the evidence is clear.
In DuPont’s case, they had animal evidence of harm – from liver toxicity and kidney damage to death – for decades, but the company did not alert regulators of a potential problem.
Then there were the company’s workers, some of whom gave birth to babies with birth defects after working in the company’s PFOA division. DuPont knew of the problems and was tracking its workers for such health effects, but again did not inform regulators of their findings. Worse still, when 3M submitted a troublesome rat study to the EPA suggesting harm, DuPont downplayed the findings and told the EPA they believed the study was flawed.
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