Sustained Outrage

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3M’s chemical plant at Cottage Grove, Minn. 

The last we heard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials had held a couple of days of closed-door meetings with folks from DuPont Co., listening to DuPont’s pitch against tougher regulation of perfluorinated chemicals like PFOA (C8) and PFOS.

Now, it turns out that those meetings, held in October at EPA headquarters in Washington, were preceded by a trip to Minnesota by a herd of agency staff who met there with another PFC company, 3M Corp.

Lawyers for residents of Minnesota, New Jersey and West Virginia who are living with PFC pollution in their communities learned of this junket to 3M headquarters when they obtained these documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Interestingly, while DuPont’s meetings at EPA headquarters were with staff from the agency’s Office of Water, the Minnesota meeting appears to have involved only folks from EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. Note how nice 3M is, offering to meet the EPA staffers at the Starbucks at the airport.

I’ve asked EPA officials what this meeting is all about, but I haven’t heard back from them yet.

Now, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has been talking a good game about PFOA and other toxic chemicals. But in this letter to Jackson, lawyer Rob Bilott — who represents citizens living in PFOA-contaminated communities in at least three states — asks why EPA has not proposed to take any action about this family of chemicals until at least 2012:

 … We agree with the Agency that currently-available data confirms that PFOA ‘may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment … however, it is not clear why EPA does not intend to propose any formal actions with respect to PFOA … for another two years … 

Bilott noted that EPA’s recently issued PFC Action Plan Summary  says that “[t]o date, significant adverse effects have not been found in the general human population.”

But, Bilott noted, the EPA document does not include mention of:

“A number of very significant studies … recently … published in the peer-reviewed literature (many within the last few months), confirming not only significant associations between exposure to PFOA in workers and certain adverse health  outcomes, but significant associations between PFOA exposures in communities with contaminated drinking water (and even in the general U.S. population) and significant effects on uric acid, cholesterol, and liver enzymes, all of which could significantly increase the risk of serious disease.”