Right now, Dupont is involved in a civil trial over a chemical it had used to manufacture stain-resistant teflon, called C8. It’s a test case — one of six — that will determine how the remaining 3,500 are dealt with.
Dupont, however, started to phase-out C8 from the market in 2014 after it was determined that it caused a number of cancers linked thyroid and testicular issues. It has replaced it with C6, which is supposed to be safe.
To be precise, C8s have eight carbons, with the most common being PFOA. C6 has six carbons.
“We’re certainly relying on the EPA to make sure that they haven’t replaced one chemical with a health and safety threat with another one that is the same or worse,” says Mike Fitzgerald, an air quality specialist for New Hampshire’s state government, in a public radio story that aired there.
That same story goes to quote others who say that not much is known about C6s and that they could lead to health-related issues: “The best advice I have is let’s treat them like they have toxic properties like C8,” says Philippe Grandjean, a Harvard University researcher.
As we know, the US Congress has passed measures in both chambers to update the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act. The US Environmental Protection Agency had no rights before the measure to test or regulate the 64,000 chemicals in the market. But the revisions will allow it to do so, although it has seven years to evaluate each chemical. EPA told the New Hampshire radio network that it is now reviewing C6.
Some history: DuPont was first sued over this issue in 2001. As part of a settlement that occurred in 2005, both sides agreed that the C8 chemical would be studied by three scientists. Beginning in 2011 and throughout 2012, those experts concluded that C8 was “more likely than not” to cause such conditions as ulcerative colitis, kidney cancer, thyroid disease and testicular cancer.
The C8 byproduct had been dumped into the Ohio River near Parkersburg, W.V., which resulted in the poisoning of water resources in two districts in West Virginia and four in neighboring Ohio.
That’s where the current civil trials are taking place, one of which occurred last October, one that has been settled and one that is taking place right now. In the first trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff $1.6 million in compensatory damages but no punitive damages meant to teach the company lesson. While Dupont is now appealing that verdict, it considered that a victory — that it had no knowledge of the potential harms that could from using C8.
“No one at DuPont ever believed that the very low amounts of C8 that were getting into the community were likely to cause harm to anybody,” said DuPont’s attorney Damond Mace, a partner in Squire Patton Boggs, in his opening statement before the jury in the third test case that began in late May. The issue is about what DuPont knew back then and not what is known today, he said.
The plaintiffs are arguing, however, that DuPont did know that the C8 led to certain cancers as early as 1988. It was then that its own scientists had run tests on rats and found that it produced a “slight” but “statistically significant” increase in the odds of getting testicular cancer.