The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Teflon Poisons Us, but It Doesn’t Stick to DuPont

May 9, 2016

In January of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter to the town of Hoosick, New York recommending it not use well water for drinking or cooking, using bottled water instead. The EPA had found a chemical, PFOA, in the town’s wells at levels dangerous to human health. In March, environmental officials in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York initiated statewide searches for areas contaminated with PFOA. It is turning out that water in much of the U.S. may widely be contaminated with this toxic chemical.

PFOA is a chemical that was used in manufacturing Teflon products like Teflon pans, Gore-Tex boots, computer cables, bearings and seals, and implantable medical devices. Scientific studies indicate that there is a link between PFOA exposure and a variety of illnesses, including high cholesterol, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, as well as dangerously high blood pressure in pregnant women.

3M has been the main manufacturer of this chemical and it was a supplier to DuPont since 1951.

After DuPont started to mass manufacture Teflon, people working for or living around Teflon manufacturing plants started to experience health problems. Workers came home with fever, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. In the plants, they called this sickness “Teflon flu.” Farmers who had farms next to DuPont Teflon plants observed that their cows were dying left and right.

Documents acquired through lawsuits showed that 3M and DuPont had been conducting secret medical studies on PFOA for more than four decades. In the 1970s, DuPont discovered that there were high concentrations of PFOA in the blood of the workers at its Washington Works. After 3M found that ingestion of this chemical caused birth defects in rats, DuPont tested the children of pregnant workers in their Teflon division and found in two out of seven births, the babies had eye defects.

Thus, both 3M and DuPont have known for decades that this chemical was exceedingly harmful to human health, but these companies did not stop manufacturing and using PFOA. They would lose too much if they stopped. DuPont alone, through its Teflon products, made more than one billion dollars in annual profits every year.

But, for DuPont, the risk of losing in law suits and getting fined was very low. After the EPA found that DuPont concealed its knowledge of PFOA’s toxicity and contamination of the environment, DuPont paid a fine of only 16.5 million dollars in 2005 – less than 2 percent of its profits for Teflon.

There currently are around 3,500 lawsuits against DuPont related to the PFOA contamination of water. But the law suits also don’t stick to DuPont. In the courts, DuPont has dragged its feet for years, waiting for the people harmed by its poisons to die.

All these fines and law suit costs must have been calculated as a cost of doing “business” and incorporated into the price of DuPont’s Teflon products. Nothing sticks to these companies.

As long as profit is the king and capitalism rules this world, we are going to bleed the poisons of these companies.