The United Steelworkers (USW) is condemning DuPont for contaminating employees around the country with some of the highest levels of the Teflon chemical called PFOA, while denying workers information on potential health effects.
The union says that DuPont is refusing to release certain data the company collected on Parkersburg, West Virginia employees to a court-appointed panel of scientists who are investigating potential health effects suffered by thousands of Ohio and West Virginia residents after drinking water was contaminated by PFOA.
A court-appointed science panel looking into the health affects from a chemical used to produce Teflon said that is might take 5 years before residents in Ohio and West Virginia know if they have been harmed by the chemical according to a report on WCPO.com, a Cincinnati ABC affiliate television station's website.
The panelists want to do another study on the effects of ammonium perfluorooctaonate on workers at DuPont's Washington Works plant near Parkersburg along the Ohio River. However, DuPont is fighting the science panel's request for that study, saying it's outside the scope of a 2005 class-action settlement with West Virginia and Ohio residents who claimed their water supplies were contaminated by the chemical.
DuPont has conducted it own studies of its workers, and claims that current and former Washington Works employees had death rates no higher than workers at seven DuPont plants in other states, the population of West Virginia or the rest of the nation according to WCPO. But additional tests would be needed because the study found slightly elevated cases of kidney disease, diabetes and heart disease, DuPont said. At the time the study was released, Dr. Sol Sax, DuPont's chief medical officer, said the data could not conclusively prove there was no link between the chemical and the case.
DuPont informed its USW-represented Deepwater, New Jersey plant employees on November 14 that levels of PFOA in their blood were as high as 6330 parts per billion (ppb), thousands of times higher than the average level of 5 ppb in the general population.
PFOA has also been found as high as 800 ppb in the blood of workers at DuPont's Spruance plant in Richmond, Virginia, even in the wake of DuPont's statements that it stopped using the chemical years ago.
The USW has been conducting its own blood testing of workers and monitoring the situation at several DuPont plant locations. Publicly available data indicates that PFOA average levels of 422 ppb and levels as high as 1870 ppb have been found in employees' blood at DuPont's Fayetteville, North Carolina plant, and the levels appeared to have doubled since 2002.
The debate over the health effects of Teflon continues as The Science Advisory Board for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined the chemical to be a likely cancer-causing agent in humans. DuPont, saying that there are no harmful health effects say they will continue to use it in their manufacturing process, reports WCPO. The chemical is distilled out before the final product is completed and so is not present in Teflon or other final products.