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October 22, 2006

Who Studied DuPont’s Study?

When the headline "DuPont study: PFOA no risk," caught my attention last week in the online edition of Today’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 study’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 Sunbeam’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 TNS’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, DuPont’s Dan Turner finally called me back. Though he stalled a bit, Turner admitted they weren’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 DuPont’s refusal to release the study.

We were one of a few. Quite a number of articles resembled Today’s Sunbeam’s stenography of Dupont’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.

Bloomberg’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 Saulton’s coverage for the Marietta Times in Ohio didn’t seem to even review the 2-page summary, instead using the mouthpiece of DuPont’s chief medical officer, Dr. Sol Sax, as a source for the company’s findings. (Eight paragraphs started out with "Sax said… .")

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, you’d think these reporters (and their editors) would want to see the details and examine the evidence before rushing to disseminate DuPont’s self-serving claims.


peggym: Who Studied DuPont’s Study?

No way is the story complete. I hope you'll stay on this.

msszczep: Who Studied DuPont’s Study?

Indeed, who watches the watchers? A theme that props up all too often these days. (I just finished reading "Watchmen", so this is pretty fresh in my brain.)

Great work that you uncovered this journalistic gem.

dissieb: Who Studied DuPont’s Study?

United Steelworkers are asking for the full report immediately, because the threats of PFOA are real but DuPont is using its public relations machine to spin this. Actually, the Environmental Working Group called the release of the executive summary more spin than science - and they should know.

Go to for a critique about how DuPont's press release belies its executive summary.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.