Friday, July 09, 2004

EPA to Fine DuPont for Withholding Data on Teflon Chemical

The EPA will seek to fine the DuPont chemical company for failing to report on tests indicating that a chemical used in its manufacturing processes is potentially dangerous to human health, according to multiple media outlets including the New York Times and the Washington Post (registration). The chemical, perfluorooctanic acid, a.k.a. PFOA or C-8, is used in making Teflon and stain-resistant surfaces.

The Federal Toxic Substances Control Act ("TOSCA") requires chemical manufacturers to notify EPA if they learn that a chemical poses a substantial risk of harm to humans or the environment. The 3M Company, which originally manufactured C-8, began phasing out the product in 2000, after advising the EPA of studies linking the chemical to cancer and birth defects in rats. DuPont is accused of withholding tests showing that C-8 was transmitted from a pregnant mother to her fetus and that significant levels of C-8 had turned up in samples of public drinking water from communities near DuPont's facilities. DuPont says the chemical is safe (or has not been proven unsafe to humans). It also says it will challenge the fine, which reportedly could run to hundreds of millions of dollars, becoming the largest environmental levy in history. (Under TOSCA, violators can be fined $25k/day, and the alleged DuPont violations date back to 1981.)

Why make such a big deal over this kind of thing? The EPA's lead enforcement attorney, quoted in the LA Times (subscription), says the information withheld by DuPont was "critical" to protecting the public health, and that EPA investigations into the chemical's safety could have begun sooner if the agency had been armed with the information. The agency's action "is intended to send a message that this type of information is critical to provide, and companies have an obligation to report it by law," he said.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Fed. R. Evid. 702: If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.