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Follow-up: DuPont's Teflon woes.

DUPONT MAY NOT BE the Teflon company after all. A long-simmering class-action suit, brought by residents of the Ohio River Valley, where DuPont manufactures Teflon, may be coming to a head.

As we reported in November, the suit alleges that, for decades, DuPont knowingly discharged C-8, a chemical used to make Teflon, into the water, air and land around its Parkersburg, W.Va., plant, while concealing the discharges and health concerns from the public. C-8, a detergent-like substance, is a known animal carcinogen. It has been found in human blood samples across the country. DuPont maintains there is no evidence that C-8 is harmful to humans and that all of its Teflon products are safe.

Since the suit was filed in August 2001, it has been beset by legal maneuverings and delays. In December, DuPont claimed a small victory when the West Virginia Supreme Court granted its request to dismiss an earlier ruling by a lower court judge ordering the company to pay for blood tests for members of the class action. But the next month, the company lost its fight before the state Supreme Court to have the lower court judge removed from the case.

With those issues cleared up, a trial date has been set for Sept. 20, almost a year to the day later than it was originally scheduled to begin. The plaintiffs' lawyers won a battle to depose DuPont CEO Charles O. (Chad) Holliday, Jr., who has tried to maintain a low profile in the case. Holliday's deposition was scheduled for March 12 in Wilmington, Del., where the company is based.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is concluding a two-year investigation into C-8. The probe centers on whether or not C-8 poses a health threat to humans, how it has come to be widely present in the population, and whether DuPont violated federal reporting requirements. A preliminary EPA finding indicated "potential systematic toxicity and carcinogenicity." The outcome could determine whether or not C-8 is regulated or phased out altogether.


The developments come as Holliday embarks on a major expansion of the Teflon business, upping production and extending into new markets. Teflon is most commonly associated with nonstick cookware, but its unique repellent characteristics have made it useful for a range of industrial and consumer products, from fast-food packaging to apparel.
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Title Annotation:ECO Watch; C-8 investigation
Author:Cortese, Amy
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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