Union launches broadside against Du Pont

The United Steelworkers Union of America has launched a stinging attack on chemicals company DuPont for its use of the chemical perfuorooctanic acid, also known as PFOA or C8, in Teflon non-stick coatings manufacture.

DuPont is currently facing a US$5 billion lawsuit for allegedly failing to warn consumers on the dangers of the chemical, said to be carcinogenic.

The USW Union has said evidence points to a company "mired in hypocrisy, controversy and a possible cover-up."

Now, the USW has informed major carpet cleaning retailers, fast food chains and clothing companies that they may have a legal duty to warn their customers about potential harmful effects of products that may contain PFOA.

PFOA is used not only in DuPont's Teflon coatings but is also created when fluorotelmers - a family of stain and water resistant chemicals applied to carpets, clothing, and fast-food packaging - break down.

The USW has written to retailers to warn them they may have a duty to inform customers of the potential health risks or face legal liability themselves in the event that customers sue and prove harm to their health.

In addition, USW has released a statement after finding PFOA contamination of groundwater, air and river discharges at the DuPont company's facility in Circleville, Ohio.

"After months of investigation, USW researchers have discovered that the DuPont Co has contaminated the environment of yet another community with C8, a chemical labelled a "likely human carcinogen" by a science advisory board of the US Government. We also applaud the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch newspaper for bringing this important information to light," the statement read.

It goes on to say that any decision by state and local authorities to rely on DuPont's own testing to determine PFOA levels in the air or water supply should be condemned. "The true extent of the contamination will never be known without independent testing," it says.

The Circleville tests come on the heels of similar findings in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where the Union discovered contaminated groundwater wells and river discharges.

PFOA is used in a variety of industrial applications but is only manufactured by DuPont.

For its part, DuPont has denied that Teflon is harmful, saying that it only breaks down at a temperature of 680 degrees Celsius. It has said it will defend itself against all charges in the upcoming case.

David Hopkins



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