Perfluorooctanoic acid, which is also known as PFOA, or C-8, is a cancer-causing toxic chemical used in the process of making Teflon and similar agents called fluorotelomers. Researchers use two main types of studies to try to figure out if such a substance might cause cancer, and after testing, the acid was ultimately linked to at least six potentially life threatening diseases, including ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancer, pregnancy induced hypertension and high cholesterol.
In 2001, a class action lawsuit was filed by residents near a DuPont plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Over 3,500 claims had been made that perfluorooctanoic acid leaked from the plant, harming the surrounding community. Residents alleged the leak contaminated local water supplies, and therefore, the cancer-causing chemical was ingested, leading to many of the disease complications.
DuPont, a US-based multi-national chemicals and health care company, agreed in 2004 to make some safety modifications and investigate the potential link between the use of C-8 and the alleged after effects, funding medical monitoring programs and installing new water treatment systems. The litigation was eventually consolidated in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, where both DuPont and Chemours, an American chemical company that was founded in July 2015 as a spin-off from DuPont, collectively continued to be blamed for the leak.
In a statement, Dupont said that it had stopped using the cancer-causing chemical in its West Virginia plant more than a decade ago, but admitted to using C-8 in that location since the 1950s. On Monday, the two companies decided to settle the matter and agreed to pay nearly $671 million in cash. The two split the balance, each agreeing to pay $335.35 million. However, neither company admitted to any wrongdoing, and declined to challenge the evidence linking C-8 to the six serious diseases.
The settlement comes just prior to DuPont’s planned $130 billion merger with Dow Chemical Co., which is due to close in the later part of 2017. Chemours shares skyrocketed 13 percent when it announced closure of the case. DuPont shares jumped just one percent.
Both companies are happy to finally put the matter to bed. “We are pleased to have reached a mutually satisfactory resolution for all parties that brings this matter to a close,” said Dan Turner of DuPont Corporate Media Relations. Harry Deitzler, an attorney involved in the initial C8 lawsuits in Wood County who also represents plaintiffs in the federal case agreed. “This is a tremendous positive step toward resolving the litigation in a way that provides compensation for our injured clients without the need for additional, lengthy and expensive trials,” he stated, adding, “We look forward to working with DuPont to finalize this settlement and get these injured class members paid as quickly as possible.”
The settlement will not undo the damage caused by years of C-8 use, but will provide some solace those effected, and will hopefully promote more stringent safety precautions in the future.