When the headline "DuPont study: PFOA no risk," caught my attention last week in the online edition of Todayâ€™s Sunbeam, the daily in Salem, New Jersey, I decided to investigate to see whether this issue would make a good TNS news brief. The article by staff writer Andrew Frankum unquestioningly cited the studyâ€™s findings several times and only included quotes from DuPont officials.
Hmmm, I thought, no critics of this internal and supposedly conclusive (according to the Sunbeamâ€™s headline) study finding there are no ill health affects from PFOA, a controversial chemical used to make Teflon-coated products, outdoor clothing and stain-resistant carpets? There must be more to this story.
So, I called DuPont to get a copy of the study to review, as it is TNSâ€™s policy to have the full study or report in hand before writing about its findings. After leaving several messages with several spokespeople requesting a copy of the study, DuPontâ€™s Dan Turner finally called me back. Though he stalled a bit, Turner admitted they werenâ€™t releasing the full study to the public. However, he said, I could read the summary posted online.
There goes my news brief, I thought. But after discussing the issue with TNS editor Jessica Azulay, we decided that not only did we have a story, we had an obligation to tell the public about DuPontâ€™s refusal to release the study.
We were one of a few. Quite a number of articles resembled Todayâ€™s Sunbeamâ€™s stenography of Dupontâ€™s 2-page summary with a heavy reliance on statements from DuPont officials.
An AP story published in the Washington Post last Tuesday also made no mention that DuPont was not releasing the full study and included only one paragraph (number 11 out of 17) questioning the study.
Bloombergâ€™s article, "DuPont Says Study Shows Teflon Chemical Isn't Deadly," also failed to disclose that the study was not made public and gave one paragraph (out of 14) to express the voice of a critic.
Jeffrey Saultonâ€™s coverage for the Marietta Times in Ohio didnâ€™t seem to even review the 2-page summary, instead using the mouthpiece of DuPontâ€™s chief medical officer, Dr. Sol Sax, as a source for the companyâ€™s findings. (Eight paragraphs started out with "Sax saidâ€¦ .")
The only source I found that mentioned DuPont has yet to release the study to the public was the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which stated towards the end of its article "DuPont did not release the entire study yesterday but said it will provide it to the EPA and publish it in a scientific journal."
For such a major study, apparently examining more than 6,000 people over 54 years, youâ€™d think these reporters (and their editors) would want to see the details and examine the evidence before rushing to disseminate DuPontâ€™s self-serving claims.