Just before the weekend, North Carolina's Attorney General, Joshua Stein, opened an investigation of Chemours, a company recently spun off from infamous corporate polluter DuPont. The investigation will also extend to DuPont as well as all other Chemours affiliates.
In the coming days, Chemours will be required to provide thousands of documents related to research, environmental impact and marketing as well as charts of the company's organization. Chemours has also been warned against attempting to destroy any such records.
Chemours' parent company, DuPont, recently entered into an agreement to pay half of a $670 million settlement over the chemical known as C8 (perfluorooctanoic acid), used to make Teflon non-stick cookware. Chemours is responsible for the remaining half of the settlement.
The current investigation by A.G. Stein is centered on Chemours' latest concoction, GenX. Touted as a more “environmentally friendly” replacement for C8, GenX is similar to its predecessor – and now appears to be causing similar health problems, putting as many as 300,000 people living in North Carolina's Cape Fear River region at risk.
Unfortunately, a compromised EPA has been dragging its heels in its studies of the effects of GenX on human health and the environment. As a result, the chemical is unregulated. Since it has been showing up in residents' drinking water, however, both North Carolina governor Roy Cooper and the state's Department of Environmental Quality have asked the EPA to provide guidelines by setting a “maximum contaminant level,” which can be enforced legally.
After scientists found GenX in the waters of the Cape Fear River and residential water supplies, a number of counties affected asked Chemours to cease dumping the chemical. Chemours stated it could not comply – until state and federal authorities stepped in. Chemours then claimed to have “found a way” to stop the chemical discharge. However, earlier this month, Chemours reported elevated amounts of GenX in its own water samples. It turned out the chemical was being discharged from other areas in the facility, which Chemours now says have been shut down.
In the face of uncertainty over the health risks of GenX, North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services established a “safe” level to be 140 parts per trillion. That is considerably less than the original guideline, which was 70,000 PPT.
Upon launching his investigation on Friday, A.G. Stein issued the following statement:
“When something is marketed as sustainable, people think it’s safe. That’s never more important than when it is in their drinking water or the lining of the pots and pans they use to cook for their families. We need to know more about how Chemours markets GenX, its risks and its environmental sustainability.”
Chemours has been given until August 20th to comply with the demand for GenX-related documents, or face either a court order or charges of contempt.