STATS ARTICLES 2006

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Media Ignore Activist Warnings
Over Alleged Chemical Threat

January 18, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
Have Environmental Working Group’s “Chicken Little” tactics against DuPont backfired?

The latest attempt by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to indict chemical giant DuPont for unloading supposedly carcinogenic chemicals into the environment was a media washout. On Tuesday, the group staged a press conference to warn about pollution from a DuPont plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina, that produces Perflurooctanoaic Acid (PFOA, also known as C8), which is used in the production of Teflon and other coatings.

According to the EWG’s press release “DuPont failed to tell the public or state officials that it was polluting groundwater with its indestructible, cancer-causing chemical C8. This toxic chemical, which can be found in the blood of nearly every American, is made at DuPont’s Fayetteville plant.”

A scandal! But by Wednesday morning, only DuPont’s hometown newspaper, the DelawareNews Journal covered the news. Perhaps this had something to do with the EWG scamming the media late last year with similar claims about DuPont covering up studies showing PFOA/C8 migrating from food packaging at three times the federal standard.

As STATS noted at the time, there was no such federal standard; the chemical coating didn’t (in fact, couldn’t) turn into PFOA in human blood; and the Food and Drug Administration found the EWG’s key evidence “irrelevant.”

We also noted that virtually all of the PFOA/C8 in human blood is bound to albumin in blood plasma, which means it is not biologically available to do any damage. In fact, PFOA, being so stable, is less reactive than many naturally-occurring fatty acids. This is why studies of human exposure to PFOA – even those workers at DuPont who work with the chemical and have higher than average levels in their blood – have not, as yet, found any evidence linking the chemical to ill-health.

The claim that PFOA is “cancer-causing” is based on lab experiments where 10 percent of rats fed PFOA at levels 25,000 times the average human exposure (which is five parts per billion) developed liver tumors. The preliminary risk assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that the mode of action by which PFOA caused these tumors was unlikely to apply to humans.

(Recent concerns over the presence of PFOA in Crystal Spring bottled water in Ohio were prompted by levels averaging .015 parts per billion - roughly 8 million times lower than the amount that produced liver tumors in rats.)

So we take the media’s failure to air the EWG’s latest warnings not as a dereliction of duty, but as timely evidence that evidence is starting to count in the ongoing campaign against PFOA and Teflon.