The major industrial enterprise E. I. du Pont de Nemours has been hiding studies on the deleterious effects the chemical C8 has on health for decades. C8 is a major surfactant component of Teflon, used in hundreds of different products including clothing, and furniture. C8 and other perfluorooctonoic acids (PFOA) are associated with a wide range of severe health problems from low levels of exposure like ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, as well as kidney cancer. DuPont continued producing C8 despite knowing its toxicity.
DuPont has researched the toxicity of C8 since 1935, when they established Haskell Laboratories in response to increasing bladder cancer in workers. The company forbade scientists from publishing a C8 cancer model. DuPont researchers found in 1978 that C8 accumulated in blood and increased endocrine disorders yet chose not to disclose findings to the EPA and regulators. DuPont researchers found that babies born to women working with C8 products had birth defects similar to offspring of rats exposed to C8. Although DuPont reported the rat study, they left out the information that C8 could travel across the placental membrane from the birth defect study. DuPont found that C8 pollutes bodies of water and bloodstreams for an extremely long time and never degrades due to its stable nature. DuPont continued dumping the chemical into landfills and the ocean. C8 is in 99.7% of Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Traces of C8 are also in a wide number of animals around the world, including harbor seals, polar bears, and caribou.
Meeting notes showed corporate managers reached a consensus that “corporate image and corporate liability” were more important than public health. Concluding C8 was not a health hazard, DuPont increased use of C8. Dennis Pausenbach’s 2007 study in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health estimates 2.5 million pounds of the chemical spread between 1951 and 2003 by the West Virginia chemical plant.
The company 3M, which produced and sold the chemical to DuPont for years, replied that they found no deleterious health effects on their employees when questioned by The Intercept, which published the original article. DuPont faces lawsuits from people who suffer health problems caused by C8, yet it continuously denies responsibility and downplays the hazard. DuPont has made billions from its sales of C8 containing products like Teflon.
Corporate media has reported on the number of lawsuits filed against DuPont and 3M, but leave out the insidious intentions of DuPont. In September 2015, Time magazine merely mentioned that investigations linked Teflon and C8 to birth defects and heart disease. It did not mention DuPont using C8 and concealing information from the EPA. A 2005 article in the New York Times failed to mention that DuPont knowingly knew about the long-term contamination for decades and continued production. A 2016 New York Times article focused on a defense attorney and though it mentioned DuPont’s unreported studies on C8, it avoided the corporate corruption that led to hiding decades of data for the sake of making profit.
Sharon Lerner, “DuPont and the Chemistry of Deception,” The Intercept, August 11, 2015, https://theintercept.com/2015/08/11/DuPont-chemistry-deception/.
Student Researcher: Nancy Luo (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)