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DuPont Failed to Report Teflon Health Risks-US EPA

July 8, 2004
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - DuPont Co., the No. 2 U.S. chemicals maker, failed to report human health risks from a key ingredient in Teflon beginning in the early 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday.

Traces of perfluorooctanoic acid or C8, which is used to make nonstick cookware coatings and stain-resistant carpets, have been found in water supplies near DuPont's West Virginia plant and in a pregnant employee, the EPA said.

The Wilmington, Delaware, company violated the Toxic Substances Control Act from June 1981 to March 2001 by not reporting dangers associated with C8, the agency said.

In an administrative complaint, EPA accused DuPont of "multiple failures to report information to EPA about substantial risk of injury to human health or the environment" from C8.

Tom Skinner, head of EPA's enforcement office, said the agency will seek penalties "in the millions of dollars," but would not disclose the exact amount. DuPont could face penalties of $25,000 per day for violations before Jan. 30, 1997, rising to $27,500 per day after that, the EPA said.

A straight calculation of fines would infer fines in the range of $300 million, but "that is not what we would be seeking," Skinner said.

A DuPont spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

DuPont has said that C8 does not cause any adverse human health effects and that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it.

As early as 1981, blood samples from at least one pregnant worker at DuPont's West Virginia plant showed that C8 had been transferred to her fetus, the EPA said.

DuPont also detected traces of the chemical in water supplies in West Virginia and Ohio communities near the plant that exceeded its own exposure guidelines in 1991, the EPA said.

C8 can remain in humans for up to 4 years, according to the EPA. Small amounts of the chemical are found in a large proportion of the general U.S. public.

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