From Holland to Ohio, PFOA, the toxic key ingredient in Teflon, has spread into waterways and rivers from former DuPont factories.
WILMINGTON, Delaware — Earlier this month, climate and health activists from West Virginia and Ohio met with their Dutch counterparts to discuss the pollution caused by a chemical that was once a key ingredient in the non-stick coating Teflon.
Members of Keep Your Promises, DuPont, a group targeting contamination caused by PFOA, also known as C-8, in the United States, traveled to Dordrecht, Holland, to compare notes on this toxic chemical once dumped from a factory there. That factory, once owned by DuPont, was sold to Chemours, a spinoff company, last year.
PFOA has become so ubiquitous in water and food supplies that 98 percent of the U.S. population has trace amounts in their bloodstream, but amounts rise dramatically for factory workers and even residents who live in proximity to factories where PFOA was produced.
Paul Brooks, a physician from West Virginia who was part of the group that traveled to the Netherlands, told The Intercept that the Dutch were largely ignorant of chemical’s dangers.
“They knew absolutely nothing about the links to disease, nothing,” he told Sharon Lerner, who further reported that the chemical has been linked to “preeclampsia, ulcerative colitis, and two types of cancer, among other conditions.”
Even DuPont’s own research, conducted in the wake of a lawsuit, shows dangerous PFOA levels in the blood of workers at factories in New Jersey, Holland, and Shimizu, Japan, where “In one case, in Shimizu in 2008, a worker had a blood level of 8,370 parts per billion (ppb). … The national average in the U.S., in 2004, was about 5 ppb.”
The scope of this pollution problem is staggering, Lerner wrote. Contamination by PFOA and PFOS, a related chemical, has been detected “in Germany, Canada, Greenland, Spain, Italy,Norway, Sweden, Denmark’s Faroe Islands, France, Vietnam, South Africa, India, England, and Australia, where a governmental inquiry is underway.”
While production levels of PFOA and similar perfluorinated chemicals are dwindling in much of the world, some countries, particularly China, are reportedly ramping up production.
DuPont seems to be using the sale of factories to Chemours as a way to pass the buck, with press inquiries referred to the newer corporation. Chemours, in turn, blames DuPont and other companies, including the Japanese firm Mitsui, for the pollution. “Chemours has never used PFOA,” a corporate representative told The Intercept.
Despite these deflections, Keep Your Promises continues to pressure DuPont to take responsibility for the contamination and subsequent cleanup efforts. A March 24 letter from the group’s advisory committee noted:
“As we have highlighted many times, DuPont’s statements regarding the magnitude of its exposure for these obligations masks the potential enormity of these liabilities, which we have to believe you are well aware of now that the extent of C-8 contamination in Europe is coming to light. Moreover, Chemours’ bleak financial outlook only serves to validate our concern that your attempt to offload billions of dollars worth of liabilities onto Chemours will ultimately fail.”
It continued: “In light of the news of C-8 contamination in Dordrecht, your company’s failure to disclose and accrue for C-8 liabilities is profoundly disturbing.”