According to EPA officials, DuPont, the country’s second-largest chemical manufacturer, violated the federal Toxic Substances Control Act from June 1981 to March 2001 by not reporting health risks from exposure to the main ingredient in Teflon, its non-stick cookware coating and carpet protection product.
EPA researchers found traces of perfluorooctanoic acid, the primary chemical used in the production of Teflon, in water supplies near DuPont’s West Virginia plant as well as in the bloodstream of at least one pregnant employee. While the health risks of exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid are not fully understood, researchers have linked the chemical to birth defects in the offspring of DuPont employees who worked in the production of Teflon during the 1980s.
In its own defense, DuPont officials have said that perfluorooctanoic acid does not lead to adverse human health effects, and cited the chemical formulation’s approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as proof positive of its safety.
Meanwhile, EPA reports indicate that the offending chemical can linger in human fat tissue for up to four years, and that small amounts of it are found in a majority of Americans today, probably as a result of eating foods cooked on Teflon surfaces.
According to the administrative complaint filed by the EPA, DuPont should be held accountable for “multiple failures to report information
about substantial risk of injury to human health or the environment” from exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid. The EPA will likely seek millions of dollars in penalties from DuPont.