Tags: DuPont | Fined | $16.5M | For | WithholdingTeflon | Toxicity | Data

DuPont Fined $16.5M For WithholdingTeflon Toxicity Data

Thursday, 15 December 2005 12:00 AM

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday ordered chemicals giant DuPont to pay a record $16.5 million in penalties for withholding health safety data on toxins linked to its lucrative Teflon group of non-stick, stain-resistant compounds.

According to the EPA, seven of the eight violations in the lawsuit involved DuPont's failure over the past two decades to report important data on perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) - a breakdown product of "fluorotelomer" compounds that include the Teflon brand of non-stick chemicals.

"This is the largest civil administrative penalty EPA has ever obtained under any environmental statute," Granta Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. "The settlement sends a clear message to the regulatory community that EPA takes very seriously the requirement to submit substantial risk information about toxic chemicals."

The EPA settlement mandates that DuPont pay a $10.25 million penalty and another $6.25 million to support two EPA environmental projects, including a $5 million, three-year look at the "degradation potential" of nine of DuPont's fluorotelomer-based products to break down and form PFOA.

According to Nakayama, the eight counts cited against DuPont in the EPA suit included: failure to submit data from 1981 on the trans-placental movement of PFOA in humans, failure to submit data on PFOA levels in household drinking water, failure to reply to an EPA request for PFOA toxicity data, failures to submit information on elevated PFOA levels in the blood of residents living near DuPont's Washington, W. Va. Plant; data withheld from PFOA-related rat studies.

Nakayama said the first count was considered the most serious.

"This is the first and only information about human placental transfer and levels of PFOA in children," he said. "Human data is very rare, and information concerning PFOA in children, much less the fetus, is extremely rare and significant in researching the potential developmental effects of the chemical."

Susan Hazen, principal deputy assistant administrator in the EPA's Office of Prevention - Pesticides and Toxic Substances, told reporters that the jury is still out on the health effects - if any - of PFOA in humans.

"The agency has information based on animal studies and toxic effects in animals, [but] we have no information at this point that would lead us to believe there is a significant human health impact," she told reporters, adding that EPA-funded studies looking at PFOA's impact on human health are ongoing.

But Lauren Sucher, director of public affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Environmental Working Group, said that research suggests PFOA collects over time in the bloodstream and takes decades to eliminate.

"There are also studies showing harm to workers, including an increased risk of leukemia, and workers with higher cholesterol levels, which is clearly a risk factor for heart disease," Sucher said.

So where does all this leave consumers, who every day touch, and dine from, products containing fluorotelomer chemicals that may degrade to form PFOA?

"It's something consumers should be concerned about, but not alarmed by," Sucher said. "We'd suggest, though, that consumers definitely take opportunities to minimize exposure to these chemicals."

Those "opportunities," she added, include staying away from Teflon cookware; microwaving take-out food on a plate rather in the potentially PFOA-emitting container it came in; avoiding water- and stain-repellant clothing; and foregoing those special "stain-guard" coatings the next time you buy a carpet or sofa.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday ordered chemicals giant DuPont to pay a record $16.5 million in penalties for withholding health safety data on toxins linked to its lucrative Teflon group of non-stick, stain-resistant compounds. According to the...
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Thursday, 15 December 2005 12:00 AM
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