Ohio Attorney General Latest to File Suit Against Teflon

Environmental Torts
Toxic Torts

By Lynn Shapiro, Staff Writer

Even while DuPont’s C8 replacement, Gen X , is generating new controversy, the list of suits against DuPont’s C8 chemical used in Teflon continues to grow.

Earlier in February, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine fired the latest legal salvo against DuPont and its spin-off, Chemours, for dumping millions of pounds of Teflon into the Ohio River from its plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia for 60 years. The company was well aware that it was causing cancer and birth defects among residents and company employees.

DeWine is suing to recover both personal injury damages for residents harmed by C-8, as well as clean-up costs needed to filter out the pollutants in the undrinkable and unusable water.

“DuPont intentionally concealed the dangers of PFOA from government entities and the public at large in order to protect profit and avoid public responsibility for injuries,” according to the lawsuit, writes Bloomberg.

The Teflon Flu

The air and water contamination caused thousands of people to develop cancer and caused one of DuPont’s employees who worked in a C8 plant to have a baby with one nostril, according to Sharon Kelly, an attorney and freelance writer, reporting for EcoWatch,

Men working at the C8 plants making Teflon would come home nauseous. Their mysterious illnesses were called the “Teflon flu”, Kelly writes.

Further, Kelly writes that as part of a former class action settlement, DuPont allowed an independent medical panel to analyze C8, concluding there was a probable link with six illnesses: kidney and testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and high cholesterol.

“Using water testing data available from the EPA, the Ohio Valley Resource organization found 12 water systems in 10 counties in Ohio and West Virginia where these chemicals were detected in the water,” according to the Allegheny Front.

“Thousands of people in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia are drinking huge doses of C-8 in their water,” the Front reports.

Chemours has been paying for installation, maintenance and monitoring of the carbon filters it has installed to help purify the water. Since the company makes Teflon, and other fluorinated plastic resins, it will be responsible for Teflon’s future liability.

Chemical of Mass Destruction

DuPont halted production of C8 the U.S., due to the potential for future costly health-related lawsuits.  

Currently, Chemours is manufacturing its chemical of mass destruction in China, where citizens suffering from catastrophic diseases do not have the right to trial or monetary compensation.

Even while Chemours’ fluoropolymer division thrives, people living along the Ohio River states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky continue to suffer from the environmental and physical carnage wrought by the blockbuster product, Teflon, a slippery surfactant invented by DuPont that’s used in everything from plastic wraps to cosmetics.

Cows Turn Neon Green

Perhaps the most uplifting and startling story in what Kelly calls “The Teflon Legacy” is DuPont former defense attorney, Rob Bilott, who represented both Du Pont and Dow while an associate at his defense firm, Taft Stettinius & Hollister, in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky.

According to Kelly, Bilott became a plaintiff’s lawyer the day a friend of his grandfather’s, Wilber Tennat, showed him photos of deranged and deformed cattle who grazed on the grass near the Ohio River, reports Kelly in EcoWatch

Once friendly pets, the cows now charged at their owners, instead of nuzzling, and refused to be milked. When Tennat cut the cows open he saw their organs had turned a bright neon green.

“After seeing the cattle, Bilott made the decision of his career,” Kelly writes. Kelly said he never filed another defense case again.

He remained at his corporate law firm, while representing the plaintiffs against his former client, Kelly writes. (Bilott also represented the former Dow Chemical.)

C8 Uncovered

Bilott subsequently forced Du Pont to turn over tens of thousands of pages of company documents proving the company’s guilt in the C8 cover-up, Kelly writes. The company knew all about its hazards but discontinuing Teflon didn’t suit the bottom line, according to the memos Bilott uncovered.

The latest Ohio lawsuit is one of 100’s of state and federal lawsuits now pending. Individual lawsuits are also pending and others are being settled favorably, including Bilott’s $671 million cash settlement one year ago in February.

Gen X

DuPont has tried to replace C8 with GenX, a trade name for a chemical that has been produced since 2010 as alternative to perfluorooctanoic acid (also known as PFOA or C8) in Teflon, according to Wikipedia.

The chemical has not been tested by the EPA in drinking water and is raising the same health questions as C8, according to PBS.

GenX, like C8, is essential for the production of common household products including non-stick pans, firefighting foam, and common outdoor fabrics, such as Gore-Tex.

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