Sustained Outrage

National health study sought on fluorinated chemicals

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While the folks at DowDuPont were celebrating the successful completion of their mega-merger, there has been another interesting and important development in the long saga of C8 and other fluorinated chemicals.

Earlier this week, a collection of advocates — a doctor, a firefighter and a lawyer — urged the federal government to launch a new, comprehensive national health studies and testing for people exposed to these chemicals in their drinking water or in their work as emergency responders. They sent letters to the Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to call for the study (see here and here) of the chemicals, known collectively as PFAS.

Among those calling for the study was Dr. Paul Brooks, who led the groundbreaking C8 Health Project in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Brooks said:

In order to protect the public health, it is critically important for ATSDR to move forward as soon as possible with work to assess the health impacts of this ever-expanding mix of PFAS chemicals in drinking water across our country, and I hope to have the opportunity to work with the agency to help shape such a national program, using our earlier C8 Health Project work on PFOA as a model.

Jeffrey Hermes, a prostate cancer survivor and firefighter/paramedic in Northern Kentucky, called on ATSDR to conduct a nationwide study of the thousands of firefighters and other emergency responders who were exposed to PFAS materials from firefighting foams and equipment:

My brothers and sisters in our country’s firefighting and emergency response community, particularly those of us now battling or having survived cancer, deserve to know whether the equipment we relied upon every day — the firefighting foams and our protective clothing and gear — actually exposed us to unsafe levels of these toxic PFAS chemicals or increased our risk of contracting a serious illness or disease.

Rob Bilott, a lawyer for Brooks and Hermes, sent the federal government the letters and notified the agencies that they could be subject to a citizen suit if the issue is not addressed:

ATSDR is uniquely empowered under federal law to pursue these national PFAS health studies and testing, and may be one of the only entities that have the ability to secure the funding necessary to get this important work accomplished, regardless of who is responsible.

 

New study reminds of chemicals in food wrappers

Here’s the top of today’s press release:

While enjoying fast food, many people feel some pangs of guilt at the calories and salt they are consuming.  Today researchers are pointing to yet another possible cause for concern. In a paper published in Environmental Science &Technology Letters, scientists found fluorinated chemicals in about a third of take-out food packaging samples tested.  Previous research has shown these chemicals can migrate from packaging into the food which people eat.

Fluorinated chemicals are used to give water-repellant, stain-resistant, and non-stick properties to consumer products such as furniture, carpets, outdoor gear, clothing, cosmetics, cookware, and even food packaging materials. The most studied of these substances has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems and changes in hormone functioning in adults as well as adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children.

In this study, the scientists from Silent Spring Institute, Notre Dame, Environmental Working Group, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Green Science Policy Institute collected and analyzed fast food packaging for this family of chemicals. In 400 samples of take-out packaging from fast food restaurants across the U.S., they found that 46% of food contact papers and 20% of paperboard contained fluorinated chemicals.

Study co-author Arlene Blum of U.C. Berkeley and the Green Science Policy Institute, said:

We should question putting any fluorinated materials into contact with food. “Given the potential for harm, we must ask if the convenience of water and grease resistance is worth risking our health.

Another study co-author, Graham Peaslee of the University of Notre Dame, said:

I was very surprised to find these chemicals in food contact materials from so many of the samples we tested. These chemicals are persistent and some bioaccumulate in the body, and there are safer non-fluorinated alternatives available.

We’ve written about this issue before here, here, here and here.

Continue reading…

Another C8 trial against DuPont underway

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Another trial is underway in federal court in Ohio against DuPont for the impacts of its C8 pollution. As the Columbus Dispatch reports:

Kenneth Vigneron Sr. is a regular guy who likes to hunt with his buddies and do the best for his four kids, his attorney said Tuesday in federal court in Columbus.

This week, though, the 56-year-old truck driver from Washington County, Ohio, is the focus of another multimillion-dollar lawsuit against DuPont over the C8 chemical it used to make Teflon, the nonstick coating on pots and pan.

Plaintiffs have said they contracted myriad diseases after DuPont dumped C8-contaminated water into the Ohio River and spewed C8 from its smokestacks, both at DuPont’s Washington Works Plant south of Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Here’s a copy of the original complaint filed on Vigneron’s behalf in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. As we’ve reported before:

Attorneys in more than 3,500 lawsuits pending against DuPont in U.S. District Court in Columbus have been trying to get answers about how the DuPont transactions affect which corporate entity is responsible for damages sought by residents who drank water contaminated by DuPont’s decades-long manufacture of C8 at its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg … 

So far, juries awarded verdicts against DuPont for a total of $7.2 million in two of the C8 cases that have gone to trial. Three other cases have settled for undisclosed amounts. Another case is set for trial in November and the judge has indicated that 40 more cases alleging C8 caused cancer will go to trial in 2017.

 

 

Water commission looking at CSB’s Freedom report

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There’s more scrutiny coming for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s controversial report on the Freedom Industries chemical spill.

Earlier today, a committee of West Virginia’s Public Water Supply Safety Study Commission indicated it was going to review the CSB report more closely because of the concerns that have been raised about it by citizens and scientists (see here, here and here).

Readers may recall that the PWSSSC (phew) was charged by the Legislature with, among other things, reviewing a longstanding CSB recommendation that the Kanawha Valley and West Virginia establish a local chemical accident prevent program. When the Freedom spill happened, state and local officials had never acted on that CSB recommendation, and as part of the post-spill legislation on above-ground chemical storage tanks, lawmakers decided to revisit it by having the commission take a look.

During a meeting this morning in Charleston, the commission’s committee that is looking at the CSB recommendation said it plans later this month to urge the entire commission to adopt a recommendation to the Legislature that the CSB proposal be implemented. This would obviously be a big deal — though given the GOP’s continued control of the Senate and House, it’s possible it will be dead on arrival at the statehouse.

The water safety commission has another meeting set for Nov. 22 where it will consider and vote on the issue.

Meanwhile, commission member Evan Hansen suggested, and the commission agreed, that the committee looking at the CSB recommendation also take a closer look at the concerns that have been raised about the CSB report on Freedom. A lawyer for the commission said that if the panel decides it has problems with the CSB report, it could include those concerns in its annual report to the Legislature, which is due Dec. 15.

Study finds unsafe PFOA levels in 33 states

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There’s a new study out today with some important findings about the extent of contamination around the country related to C8 and similar chemicals. Here’s the conclusion, as summarized in a press release from Harvard University, whose researchers worked on the paper:

Levels of a widely used class of industrial chemicals linked with cancer and other health problems — polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) — exceed federally recommended safety levels in public drinking-water supplies for 6 million people in the United States, according to a new study led by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

It continues:

The researchers looked at concentrations of six types of PFASs in drinking-water supplies, using data from more than 36,000 water samples collected nationwide by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2013 to 2015. They also looked at industrial sites that manufacture or use PFASs; at military fire-training sites and civilian airports where firefighting foam containing PFASs is used; and at wastewater-treatment plants. Discharges from these plants — which are unable to remove PFASs from wastewater by standard treatment methods — could contaminate groundwater. So could the sludge the plants generate, which is frequently used as fertilizer.

The study found that PFASs were detectable at the minimum reporting levels required by the EPA in 194 out of 4,864 water supplies in 33 states across the United States. Drinking water from 13 states accounted for 75 percent of the detections: California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois, in order of frequency of detection.

You can read the full paper here.

Also out today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives is this paper, which again points to potential links between exposure to these chemicals and effects on human immune systems.

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If you’ve been following the issue of questions that surround who exactly continues to have the liability for DuPont Co.’s C8 pollution (see here, here and here), there’s some pretty interesting news that’s come out of a teleconference Wednesday among the lawyers and the judge in federal court in Ohio — where thousands of cases against DuPont are pending.

It seems that U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. is becoming increasing concerned — and is finally moving toward ordering DuPont to turn over information that lawyers for the plaintiffs in these cases have demanding, and that they hope might shed some light on the situation.

According to a transcript of the telephonic conference, the judge told DuPont:

… The longer this takes and the more difficult it becomes to get this information, truthfully, the more I’m determined that there is something that needs to be ferreted out here. I hope it turns out to be the big nothing. But I can tell you from long experience in this job, the more things aren’t disclosed, the more suspicious everybody becomes, and I think that’s the situation we’re in right now.

Another C8 trial scheduled

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In the wake of the latest jury verdict against DuPont, there’s a ruling out now that sets what appears to be the next trial date among the thousands of cases pending against the chemical giant in federal court in Ohio.

U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. issued this order which sets up the trial schedule in the suit brought on behalf of Kenneth Vigneron Sr. of Washington County, Ohio.  The suit alleges that C8 exposure caused Vigneron to contract including being diagnosed with testicular cancer and hypercholesterolemia.

Sargus scheduled the trial to start on Nov. 14, 2016.

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that shareholders of DuPont and Dow this week approved the huge merger between those two chemical giants, and the group Keep Your Promises DuPont continues to raise questions about this transaction:

Stakeholders want to know how the liabilities will be dealt with once the merger is completed, but beyond that, we need answers about what happens after the company splits into three smaller companies. We have a right to see the separation agreement, and we have a right to see how DuPont, DowDuPont, and any of the final three companies will handle these enormous liabilities. These details are crucial for shareholders, but they are a matter of life and death for thousands of folks in the mid-Ohio Valley.

It is ridiculous that we do not have the basic answers we need as to how our friends and neighbors will be taken care of. It appears that this merger is being carried out with no regard for the human toll it will take on communities in the mid-Ohio Valley and nationwide.

 

 

Chasing DuPont’s C8 liabilities

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Controversy continues to swirl over DuPont’s legacy liabilities for C8 contamination.

The News-Journal reported this interesting story earlier this week:

Plaintiffs suing DuPont Co. over alleged exposure to the toxic chemical C8 want to know who is going to pay the $1 billion in damages they are seeking.

Who will be held ultimately responsible is unclear, they say, because DuPont plans to merge with the Dow Chemical Co. later this year and then split into three separate businesses by 2018.

The plaintiffs this week asked a federal judge for documents clarifying DuPont’s liabilities and obligations after the merger and subsequent split.

I’ve posted a copy of that legal filing here, and the News-Journal story continues:

In an April 18 legal filing, Julie Mazza, acting associate general counsel for DuPont, said the company has not made a decision on how the liability will be handled. Mazza also said it is unclear how the company will handle its obligations under Leach v. DuPont.

The Leach case, filed by Mid-Ohio Valley residents, was settled in 2005. Under the settlement, DuPont was mandated to pay for medical monitoring of those potentially exposed to C8 and install water filters to remove the chemical from area water supplies among other commitments. Thousands of Mid-Ohio Valley citizens had opted out of the Leach settlement to pursue their own claims. Those cases will move forward at the glacial pace of 40 cases a year starting in 2017.

“Currently, there has been no determination as to how the obligations of DuPont to the other parties under the Leach settlement agreement would be allocated as part of any post-merger separations,” Mazza wrote referring to Leach v. DuPont, which was filed in 2001.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys representing those who opted out of the Leach settlement responded to Mazza with a motion asking the court to release documents providing details on the C8 liabilities. In a separate court filing, the attorneys called Mazza’s declaration “troubling.”

“It failed to supply any meaningful information regarding where the liabilities relating to the C8 litigation will end up after the proposed DuPont/Dow merger,” wrote Michael London of Douglas & London, a New York firm. “Most importantly, the declaration failed to provide any information regarding whether DuPont will even exist after the merger transaction.”

Continue reading…

C8: What about West Virginia’s water?

In this Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 photo, a woman leaves a Tops supermarket with bottled water that is being supplied to residents in Hoosick Falls, N.Y. PFOA, long used in the manufacuring of Teflon pans, Gore-Tex jackets, ski wax, and many other products has turned up in the water in factory towns around the country like Hoosick Falls, impacting drinking water. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

In this Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 photo, a woman leaves a Tops supermarket with bottled water that is being supplied to residents in Hoosick Falls, N.Y. PFOA, long used in the manufacuring of Teflon pans, Gore-Tex jackets, ski wax, and many other products has turned up in the water in factory towns around the country like Hoosick Falls, impacting drinking water. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

The discovery and continued controversy over C8 contamination in the drinking water supply in Hoosick Falls, New York, continues to cause quite a stir — and a flurry of response and action by federal and state officials.

Over last weekend, as reported here by The New York Times, Gov. Andrew Cuoma made the announcement that a fairly quick move to install new filters on the local water system has had the desired results:

More than six weeks after declaring an environmental emergency in this upstate village, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made his first visit here on Sunday, announcing that a new filter system had successfully cleared a toxic chemical known as PFOA from the municipal water supply.

It’s quite a contrast to West Virginia, where for some residents in the Mid-Ohio Valley it took a years-long court battle to get water treatment to rid their water of C8 — and where some residents in that same part of the state still can’t get any action on the contamination in their communities.  As we recently reported in the Gazette-Mail:

While the Obama administration continues work on a long-awaited national standard for C8, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has tightened a pollution advisory for a town in New York — but not for West Virginia communities where drinking water has long been contaminated with the same toxic chemical.

Last week, a lawyer who has for 15 years been urging EPA to take stronger actions about C8 pollution from DuPont Co. and other firms wrote to the agency to question why officials have not updated a drinking water advisory level for Wood County communities to match one issued in late January in Hoosick Falls, New York.

Continue reading…

Judge rejects DuPont’s bid for new C8 trial

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There’s a hefty new ruling out of federal court in Ohio, in which U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. turns down a request from DuPont Co. for a new trial or a ruling in its favor as a matter of law in the big C8 case trial that ended with a $1.6 million verdict against the company.

You can read the 125-page order here. It’s a remarkably detailed history and analysis of issues not only in the trial of Carla Bartlett and her kidney cancer case against DuPont, but also of the previous litigation that led us to this point and of the long history of DuPont’s mismanagement of C8 and the health threats it poses.

Of course, there are more than 3,500 individual C8 cases to go — and Judge Sargus last month issued this order that outlines a plan for trying first the 260 cancer cases on a schedule of 40 per month starting in April 2017.