Monday, August 06, 2007

PFOA and Heart Disease?

Latest PFOA Health News from DuPont

"DuPont conducted a two-phase employee health study on PFOA at its Washington Works site. Results from the first phase of this study for more than 1,000 workers indicate no association between exposure to PFOA and most of the health parameters that were measured. The only potentially relevant association is a modest increase in some, but not all, lipid fractions, e.g. cholesterol, in some of the highest exposed workers.

"The second phase was a mortality study that involves the examination of all causes of death in more than 6,000 employees who worked at the Washington Works site during its more than fifty years of operation. Based on the observation of a modest increase in some lipid fractions in the study’s first phase, the second phase included a more detailed analysis of heart disease. No overall increase in deaths related to heart disease was found. After additional analyses of the data using different models, one analysis showed a slight increase in heart disease with increased exposure. This observation could be the result of random occurrence or it could mean a small increase in workers more heavily exposed. DuPont intends to pursue additional analyses to fully understand this statistical observation." - From DuPont's 10Q (pp. 34 - 35, emphasis added)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cornered, DuPont Refuses to Phase-Out Toxic-Teflon

It sounded good. In January of last year, DuPont and the EPA agreed on a voluntary “PFOA 2010/15 Stewardship Program.” The stated goal was to encourage DuPont and other companies to “work toward” eliminating perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its precursors from both industrial emissions and consumer items by 2015.

Many in the mainstream media were fooled too. They misunderstood the program, assuming that DuPont’s manufacturing of PFOA would end, as would the emissions from facilities and products. DuPont did not discourage this notion. But when the DuPont Council and our allies read the fine print on DuPont’s commitment, we saw the truth. Nowhere in its letter of “commitment” to EPA did DuPont agree to eliminate the production or use of PFOA. Instead, DuPont pledged to reduce emissions and establish “caps” on residuals in products. In other words, DuPont intended to continue to produce and use PFOA, not just over the next ten years, but indefinitely.

When we approached major shareholders with this information, we were surprised at how many of them agreed that DuPont’s “commitment” did not go far enough. For the most part, banks, brokerage firms and other financial institutions are not known for supporting Shareholder proposals with an environmental message. But at both the 2006 and 2007 Shareholders Meetings, nearly 25% of the total shareholders voted for our proposal and sent a clear message to DuPont that it needed to do more.

As the year wore on, the Council and our allies uncovered more PFOA contaminated communities and more DuPont workers with high levels of PFOA in their blood. We formed the DuPont Accountability Coalition and beat the drum demanding an end to DuPont's continuing PFOA pollution. The message was heard in state and federal agencies where PFOA investigations were initiated and new PFOA standards were set. The message was also heard in Wilmington.

In early February, DuPont announced it was developing alternative technologies that would allow it to “eliminate the need to make, buy or use PFOA by 2015.” Unfortunately, this new “commitment” like those of the past, appears to be more greenwashing and spin. It is still voluntary with no provisions to verify progress.

In fact, at this year’s shareholders meeting Chad Holliday claimed the company was making “progress” on reducing PFOA emissions and congratulated his team for finding “alternatives to PFOA.” But after avoiding nearly a dozen questions during the meeting on the company’s specific plan, Holliday offered us a short meeting afterwards with the company’s PFOA team. Then it became obvious to the Coalition members that DuPont was unwilling to make clear commitments and hedged on their abilities to even meet the 2015 goals. In addition, DuPont specifically refused to commit to verifiable reductions in the manufacture of PFOA leading up to its target elimination date.

The council and our allies believe DuPont must come totally clean if there is going to be progress and it must have an official meeting with the Coalition. DuPont’s commitments must include:

  • Double its efforts to find a safe substitute for PFOA

  • Phase-out PFOA much earlier than 2015

  • Eliminate production of products that can break down to PFOA

  • Allow third party oversight of its efforts

If DuPont is sincere in its commitment to address the widespread and growing problem of PFOA contamination, it will meet with the representatives of labor and environmental organizations to discuss their concerns in a more official manner. As of now, DuPont has refused to meet if the USW is present. It seems to us that DuPont believes that workers who have their blood contaminated with PFOA don’t deserve a voice. In the meantime, more communities throughout the country are beginning to discover they are the victims of DuPont’s pollution by this chemical.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The EPA concluded its first health assessment of dioxin in 1985.
"The EPA’s estimate in this report of the cancer risk to humans from dioxin exposure was by far the highest defined for any chemical by any government agency anywhere in the world," writes CHEJ (whose founder organized her community around Love Canal in 1978).

Industry - represented by the Chlorine Institute, later the Chlorine Chemistry Council and now a division of the American Chemistry Council - protested and ramped up a campaign to stall the use of this risk assessment in regulation of human exposure to dioxin. However, aach time EPA did a reassessment as demanded by industry, the agency found new evidence that there is NO level of exposure that should be acceptable.

Finally, "The National Academies (NA) released a report on July 11, 2006 confirming what numerous scientific panels have concluded over the past 15 years: dioxin is a potent cancer-causing chemical. Chlorine-based industries have been effectively stalling the release of the EPA’s controversial dioxin reassessment for 15 years."

People in New Johnsonville have been exposed to dioxin (among other harmful chemicals) for about 48 years.

Here's the full story about the release and the stalling to release an important dioxin risk assessment from the people who know because they have been fighting this for almost three decades:

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Questions about DuPont unsettle town. That's the article The Tennessean published on its front page on Sunday about yet another plant where there are concerns about the enormous amount of dioxin released from a DuPont facility. People in DeLisle, Miss. and Edgemoor, Del. have been fighting DuPont for years over the hazardous waste and secrecy around DuPont's titanium dioxide plants. Now that people around the third titanium dioxide plant in New Johnsonville, Tenn. are learning about what they could be exposed to. After 48 years of production, the state regulatory agency is just now learning that the company creates dioxin as a by product.

DuPont has recently bashed the article and reporter for inacurracies in the article. A Letter to the Editor is signed by the plant manager Kenneth Klein but it is posted by Nate Pepper, who is a public affairs manager for DuPont and has ochestrated media relations for contamination concerns at Delisle as well.

DuPont plant manager’s response to this article is quick to disseminate its own misinformation or half-truths. What is great about this Tennessean article is that it provides many resources so everyone can look up the information themselves. The people in New Johnsonville and all of Tennessee have a lot of questions, they have a right to know and they should get the straight answers. Unfortunately, DuPont is not giving them.

If it’s not evident in this article that the town is unsettled, it will become evident. As one of the people who went door-to-door in the community, I can vouch for the “unsettleness” in the community. Unfortunately, many people are afraid to come out against DuPont.

I have heard people wonder about the pollution – such as the clouds of unknown substances that cover the community or the possible leakage of chemicals from the numerous injection wells – but they decide that their concerns will not be addressed by the company or the regulatory agencies because DuPont is too powerful.

People are concerned about the number of cancer victims on their streets, or wonder if pollution in the area could have caused their own illnesses. However, they do not want to be the first one to come out in a news article because they may be ostracized by a community that is so dependent on the company.

Some people just want more information before they point fingers.

There is a lot more to discover. The truth is just now coming out, and as it does, more people will feel more comfortable discussing their concerns or own health problems. When that first sick person comes out, more people will come out.

Everyone can look up the cancer rates in their county by going to the Tennessee Cancer Registry online at: Humphreys County consistently has a high rate of cancer incidence. It's not always first, but it's always in the top 3.

There is a great need to clarify what dioxin is and the toxicity of dioxin from the DuPont facility.

The term “dioxin” refers to a family of complex but related chlorinated compounds with similar chemical structures and biological activity. It includes all furans and dioxin congeners. Out of the hundreds of congeners, “29 are thought to have significant dioxin-like toxicity. While it is believed that these 29 compounds have a similar mechanism of toxicity not all are equally toxic. The most toxic and best-studied dioxin is 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (herein referred to as only TCDD). The remaining 28 compounds have been assigned toxicity values relative to TCDD.
(Here’s a good source:

TCDD causes cancer in humans, according to the EPA, National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC). The EPA has classified the complex mixtures of dioxin to which people are exposed as a "likely human carcinogens." We accumulate dioxin in our body through the food we eat, and our food accumulates it through the food it eats. It also lasts in our bodies for a long time.

DuPont’s New Johnsonville facility is the fourth largest emitter of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds in the country, according to the 2004 EPA Toxic Release Inventory. In 2004 all three of DuPont’s titanium dioxide facilities released 47 percent of all dioxin released by all facilities in the United States. This data is at

The company is only required to report the presence of 17 types of dioxin compounds total. In 2000, DuPont reported to the federal government emitting the most toxic kind, TCDD.

Even without the TCDD, all the types of dioxin DuPont emits, adds up to the toxicity of TCDD. Each type of dioxin is given a toxic equivalent factor. By adding those up, I found that the dioxin releases in 2004 alone had a TCDD toxic equivalency of 43.809 grams. It’s as if DuPont emitted 43.809 grams of the most toxic dioxin in one year, which is a large amount considering a fraction of a gram can be harmful to human health. DuPont has been in production for almost 50 years.

According to the National Research Council (2006), industrial emissions, as well as the use of certain herbicides, have contributed to contamination of air, soil and water with trace levels of dioxin and DLCs. When it gets into the environment, animals eat it and if we eat animals and eggs we are exposed dioxin.

Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, DuPont is required to report releases of .01 grams of dioxin to the federal government, as well as report amounts of toxic releases. However, it is apparent by the response of Mike Apple of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation that the state did not know about dioxin at the facility. As far as I know the documents DuPont has submitted to TDEC do not include the 150 samples it has taken to test for dioxin. There is no evidence DuPont submitted the results that showed the company found TCDD.

The DuPont Company has a history of not disclosing important documents to regulatory agencies or the public. In 2005, DuPont was fined the largest civil administrative fine in the EPA’s history for withholding evidence about the possible toxicity of its Teflon-chemical, PFOA, for over 20 years.

DuPont has applied for a major modification to its landfill. The company wants to put waste from its sludge ponds into its North Hollow Landfill, which has previously held mostly “Iron Rich” waste. (
The waste is new to this specific landfill and could have a different chemical characterization. Both wastes should be tested thoroughly to create a true characterization of the waste.

TDEC has shown concern about the mischaracterization of waste. TDEC is not granting the major modification in its current form as it had planned to do before several critics asked for a landfill hearing and raised many good questions and critiques. The landfill is only permitted to receive non-hazardous waste, but there are many reasons to think the waste DuPont disposes of is actually hazardous. For one, the permit does not include any reference to dioxin. Also, similar waste at DuPont’s plant in Delaware has been labeled hazardous by the EPA.

Since 1956, DuPont has provided this community good paying jobs. No one can deny the importance of those paychecks. But at what cost to worker and community health?

It’s often high paying jobs that come with the most risk and there are many risks to workers and the surrounding community attributable to the way DuPont makes titanium dioxide in New Johnsonville. Adding to the risk is the way DuPont disposes of the hazardous waste from this process and is not open to regulators, workers or the community about the risk of that waste.

It’s especially difficult to be critical of one’s employer. But it’s an American right to ask questions and get information.

A former DuPont employee from the DeLisle, Mississippi titanium dioxide plant, Myra, thought she was alone when she became sick. Then she organized with her community. Now 2,000 sick people are suing DuPont. Myra said in a film about the DeLisle plant, “Before this, we had no voice. Who were we? These dumb southerners…I’ve learned over the years to speak up. DuPont will know where we stand. DuPont will know we have a voice.”

Monday, February 26, 2007

Since September 11, there have been warnings that chemical plants and storage facilities in the U.S. could be terrorist targets. DuPont has spent $3 billion in improved security since 9/11, spread out among all its facilities in the U.S., according to Art Levine. DuPont has been praised for its use of American Chemistry Council’s security program called Responsible Care, a self-policing program.

Still, Art Levine, contributing editor of Washington Monthly, strolled onto DuPont’s Edgemoor, Del. facility. With eight hazmat railcars ahead of him that could have been filled with “deadly” chlorine, he was not even watched by cameras. According to Levine, if just one railcar was hit, 100,000 people could be killed.

Read Art Levine’s story You Too Can Break Into a Chemical Plant.

Be sure to hear Art Levine go up against the chemical industry's lobbyist, Marty Durbin, on streaming audio of KCRW's To the Point.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

There is a long trail of studies, surveys and hidden documents that points to serious toxic effects of the Teflon-chemical on babies.

Johns Hopkins scientists found PFOA and other perfluorinated chemicals in the umbilical cords of 99 percent of 300 babies from the Baltimore area. Another pilot study found that PFOA passes from mother to baby unhindered, meaning it does not decrease in amounts. The latest study has everything but confirmed that this chemical is impacting the most delicate of humans and causing developmental effects. See: New C8 study finds baby developmental problems The Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)

Yet, DuPont already knew 25 years ago that PFOA passes from mother to baby, but didn't bother to tell the public or the EPA. DuPont suspected it could cause birth defects in newborns when its own survey found that two out of seven female workers who worked around PFOA had children with birth defects - an astounding ratio. Twenty years later, DuPont paid the largest civil administrative penalty in EPA's history for not disclosing this and other evidence of PFOA's harmful effects. You have to think DuPont was content with paying that one time fee of $16.5 million when it's making $1 billion every year on PFOA-related products.

The question for consumers and the EPA is: How long does the trail have to be? How long before this product is permanently taken out of our Stainmaster carpets, food packaging and clothing that our children are continuously exposed to?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Steelworkers Charge DuPont with Hiding Information on Health Effects of Teflon Chemical

PITTSBURGH - The United Steelworkers (USW) is condemning DuPont (NYSE:DD) for contaminating employees around the country with some of the highest levels of the Teflon chemical, PFOA, yet to be found in human blood, while denying workers information on potential health effects.

DuPont is refusing to release certain data the company collected on Parkersburg, West Virginia employees to a court-appointed panel of scientists who are investigating potential health effects suffered by thousands of Ohio and West Virginia residents after drinking water was contaminated by PFOA. DuPont has also failed to release the study and other PFOA data to a USW local union after it made a formal request.

“We condemn DuPont’s refusal to make the study available to its employees and the public,” said Ken Test, Chairman of the USW DuPont Council. “DuPont is obviously hiding something.”

DuPont informed its USW-represented Deepwater, New Jersey plant employees on November 14 that levels of PFOA in their blood were as high as 6330 parts per billion (ppb), thousands of times higher than the average level of 5 ppb in the general population.

“If PFOA is not harmful as DuPont keeps telling the world, then why the secrecy and unwillingness to share information on its effects with its employees who comprise the most exposed population,” asked Jim Rowe, President of USW Local 943 in Deepwater.

PFOA has also been found as high as 800 ppb in the blood of workers at DuPont’s Spruance plant in Richmond, Virginia, even in the wake of DuPont’s statements that it stopped using the chemical years ago.

“We’ve been asking for information on PFOA since 2004, and DuPont is demanding a confidentiality agreement that would prevent us from giving information to government agencies, public interest groups and workers at other plants,” said Jay Palmore of the Ampthill Rayon Workers Union. “So we are more than suspicious.”

The USW has been conducting its own blood testing of workers and monitoring the situation at several DuPont plant locations. Publicly available data indicates that PFOA average levels of
422 ppb and levels as high as 1870 ppb have been found in employees’ blood at DuPont’s Fayetteville, North Carolina plant, and the levels appeared to have doubled since 2002.
The plant is the sole manufacturer of PFOA in the U.S.

“We believe that DuPont’s actions over PFOA fly in the face of its stated commitment to environmental sustainability and worker health and safety,” said Test. “It’s green-washing and safety-washing at its best.”

The USW represents 1,800 workers at DuPont’s plants in the U.S.