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EPA Seeks Teflon Penalties Against DuPont

Dec 6, 2004 | AP

A dispute over an unregulated chemical used to make Teflon erupted again Monday as the Environmental Protection Agency sought fines against DuPont Co., saying the chemical maker withheld some lab results.

EPA officials accused DuPont of not sharing its findings on perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts, known as PFOA or C-8, in blood samples taken in July from 12 people living near DuPont's Washington Works Facility near Parkersburg, W.Va.

Each was exposed to PFOA through drinking water from the Lubeck Public Service District, according to EPA. The 12 people had stopped using that contaminated water as their primary source three years ago, EPA said, but their blood samples showed concentrations of PFOA averaging more than 13 times the national average.

PFOA is used in making Teflon but is not part of the Teflon itself. DuPont has maintained that PFOA is not harmful to people's health or the environment.

DuPont said the samples were taken at its request from 12 named plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the company over PFOA contamination in West Virginia. The samples were sent off to be analyzed by an independent lab.

"DuPont shared the results of these tests with attorneys for the test participants, who made them available to the EPA, and we welcome the EPA's consideration of these findings," company officials said Monday.

Nationally, PFOA averages about 5 parts per billion in people in the United States. But the lab tests showed the West Virginians with PFOA levels in their blood ranging from 15.7 ppb to 128 ppb, with a mean of 67 ppb.

Penalties against DuPont of up to $32,500 per day, from August 28 through October 12, are being sought "for failing to report this substantial risk information under the Toxic Substances Control Act," EPA officials said. The case next goes to EPA's administrative law judges.

EPA said the lab results should have been turned over to the government immediately after they were found, instead of only being made available several weeks later.

DuPont said Monday it does not believe the blood monitoring data is reportable under the law cited by EPA. The company said "the exposure levels ... do not represent a health concern" and no adverse health effects were observed.

In July, EPA cited DuPont for not providing the agency with a one-page document on PFOA confirming a nostril and eye birth defect in a 4-month-old child and listing an unconfirmed eye and tear duct birth defect in a 2-year-old child.

DuPont has said it was not required to report that document because it was an informal record from the early 1980s.

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