The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

DuPont Still Hiding Teflon Hazard Study

by Catherine Komp

Dec. 13, 2006 – Nearly two months after DuPont claimed to have evidence that a chemical it uses in the Teflon-manufacturing process is safe for workers, the chemical giant still refuses to release its full findings to the public.

Now unions have joined in pressuring DuPont to release the study and other information on the health effects of PFOA, a chemical used to make Teflon that the Environmental Protection Agency says is potentially harmful to humans.

The company announced the results of the study in October; it examined mortality rates of employees over a 50-year period. While DuPont claimed its scientists found no increased mortality in workers exposed to PFOA, the company refused to release the full study, including information about its authors, to the public.

The United Steel Workers (USW) requested a copy of the study almost two months ago, but said they received no response from DuPont. USW filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) last Friday in order to compel DuPont to release the full study, along with raw data, statistics and workers’ medical histories. The union says DuPont is preventing them from protecting the health and safety of its membership.

"We don’t understand at all why there’s such secrecy around this if in fact DuPont’s statement that PFOA has no harmful effects is correct," USW’s Joe Drexler, manager of strategic planning and research, told The NewStandard.

"We don’t understand at all why there’s such secrecy around this if in fact DuPont’s statement that PFOA has no harmful effects is correct."

Dupont spokesperson Daniel Turner said the company was not aware of the NLRB complaint. He said DuPont planned to hand the study over to USW "today or tomorrow." But Turner reiterated that DuPont will not release the study to the public until it is published in a scientific journal, and he said the USW will be bound by company copyright rules stating they cannot distribute the study without DuPont’s permission.

USW, which represents about 1,800 workers at six DuPont locations in New York, New Jersey and Kentucky, is not alone in being snubbed by the company when asking for information about the chemical. Unions have also been demanding details on the use of PFOA at a DuPont plant in Richmond, Virginia.

"We've been asking for information on PFOA since 2004, and DuPont is demanding a confidentiality agreement that would prevent us from giving information to government agencies, public interest groups and workers at other plants," Jay Palmore, with Ampthill Rayon Workers Union, said in a press statement.

PFOA is used in the Teflon-manufacturing process to make products like non-stick cookware, stain-resistant products, and paper coatings for food packaging. DuPont has continued to insist that PFOA is not harmful to humans, despite growing uncertainty about its safety. Last March, the Environmental Protection Agency warned that the agency could no longer conclude the chemical "will not present an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment." Additionally, a scientific advisory panel to the EPA has recommended that PFOA be labeled a "likely carcinogen."

As previously reported by TNS, labor advocates and environmentalists are also concerned because of the pervasiveness of the chemical, found in the blood of both workers’ and the general population, and in fish, birds and mammals worldwide.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Catherine Komp is a contributing journalist.

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