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DuPont hindered C8 study, judge told

Oct 19, 2006 |

DuPont Co. has told a three-person science panel to stop any effort to independently examine the possible effects of the chemical C8 on the company’s plant workers, according to previously confidential documents made public late Wednesday.

Lawyers for thousands of Parkersburg-area residents filed the documents in Wood Circuit Court and asked for a court order to stop DuPont’s “interference” with the independent C8 study.

The filing came just one day after DuPont released a summary of the results of the second phase of its own review of C8 impacts on plant workers’ health.

In their court filing, the residents’ lawyers said that DuPont’s action “on its face, prevents the science panel from casting its independent eyes on DuPont’s hand-picked worker data that only DuPont advocates have been permitted to review.

“Aside from the obvious possibility of data tampering or manipulation, such interference is highly prejudicial to impartial scientific analysis of the issue as was agreed to (and ordered) in the settlement,” the residents’ lawyers wrote.

At its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg, DuPont uses C8 to make Teflon. It is also used to make food packaging and thousands of other consumer and industrial products.

Three top epidemiologists — picked by DuPont and the residents’ lawyers — are conducting an independent C8 review with funds from a more than $100 million settlement of a lawsuit against DuPont over the contamination of residential water supplies with the toxic chemical.

The settlement, approved by now-retired Wood Circuit Judge George W. Hill Jr. in February 2005, gave the science panel virtually no limitation on what studies or data they would consider in trying to determine if C8 exposure makes people sick.

As part of its work, the science panel decided to perform its own study of DuPont workers who were exposed to C8 at the Washington Works plant.

The scientists visited DuPont’s Haskell Lab facility in Wilmington, Del., to learn about the company’s computerized databases on worker health and C8 exposure.

During a July meeting with the science panel and lawyers for the residents, DuPont officials did not object to the worker study.

But last week, DuPont lawyer Laurence F. Janssen sent the science panel a one-paragraph letter that said, “Please stop all work related to an incidence of disease study of DuPont’s Washington Works employees.

“Such a study was not contemplated by the Settling Parties and is not a part of the Settlement Agreement,” Janssen wrote in the Oct. 9 letter. “DuPont has not substantially completed Phase I and II of the worker studies at Washington Works. Therefore, DuPont has determined that any additional studies performed on this DuPont worker population are best conducted by DuPont and its contractors.”

After receiving a copy of Janssen’s letter, one of the residents’ lawyers, fired off a response.

In his Oct. 9 letter, the residents'attorney said neither DuPont nor the residents were supposed to be able to control what studies the science panel performed concerning C8’s effects. Winter warned that the residents might seek a court order against DuPont’s actions.

The next day, on Oct. 10, the science panel e-mailed DuPont to ask the company to reconsider.

“The science panel regrets DuPont’s decision to cancel our proposed worker cohort study,” the panel said. “The population in question, DuPont employees, is a relatively highly exposed population. Understanding the potential health effects of C8 in the community will be markedly enhanced by understanding the health effects of C8 in the more highly exposed workers.”

DuPont did not respond, according to the court filing.

Later last week, science panel member Kyle Steenland revealed in an interview that DuPont had been “reluctant” to cooperate with the worker study. Steenland declined to elaborate.

At the time, DuPont spokesman Dan Turner said, “no decision had been reached” by the company on whether to cooperate with the worker study.

On Tuesday, DuPont held a news conference at the Washington Works plant to release a summary of its own latest study of C8 and plant worker health.

In a news release, DuPont said its study of more than 6,000 current and former plant workers found “no increased mortality risk in workers exposed” to C8.

The company said it found slightly elevated levels of kidney cancer, heart disease and diabetes among workers, but discounted those as not being statistically significant.

DuPont gave reporters an executive summary and a slide presentation describing the results, but has not made public its actual scientific paper.

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