Below are some of our videos explaining the potential dangers of C8 & PFAS, and especially the connection to various forms of cancer. To learn more about the types of injuries that have been linked to these products, and the legal claims that have been filed, click C8 Injuries and PFAS Injuries.
EPA Allowed 3M & DuPont To Poison Drinking Water With PFAS Cancer-Causing Chemicals For Years
Mike Papantonio: The EPA has known for years, that PFAS chemicals are hazardous to human health and the environment yet industrial giants 3M and DuPont managed to flood our drinking waterways with that product and that toxin. Joining me to talk about this is attorney Madeline Pendley, you know, Madeline, what strikes me is I look at this fellow right here, probably a 3M employee he's in, he's in the Tyvek suit, got gloves on. He's got a mask on. He is set to where if this stuff gets on him, he can save himself.
Madeline Pendley: Right.
Mike Papantonio: You know what the ugly part of it is, this is the same stuff they're putting in our drinking water.
Madeline Pendley: Exactly. He's decked out to protect himself. But when it comes to the rest of us, the firefighters that use this stuff, the people who get it in their drinking water, we're not protected at all. And so to back up a little bit, that term PFAS that you mentioned that actually encompasses a class of thousands of different dangerous chemicals, as you know. So in particular, we're going to be talking about C8 and those chemicals also very dangerous. Interestingly, despite being so dangerous, they were using a ton of different consumer products like Teflon. You're familiar with that. Scotchgard and most recently, what's called AFFF or firefighting foam, which is what we're going to talk about today.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. What we, what we found in the trial that I tried up in Ohio was that they had tons of experiments to show that it would cause cancer. It would cause birth defects. It would cause a whole issue, a whole line of health problems that they didn't tell the public. Now here's what's important. It's in your drinking water now.
Madeline Pendley: Exactly.
Mike Papantonio: More than likely if you're in a big urban area, this is in your drinking water, there is no safe level. They say, oh, well, you know, there's a, there is no safe level, right?
Madeline Pendley: Right. So they have studies, both 3M and DuPont, going back to the 1950s saying that this stuff, one, builds up in your blood. You know, once it's there, it stays there. They have studies in the 60s, classifying it as a toxin in their internal documents. Didn't tell anybody that. In the 70s they learned it continues to build in your blood. In the 80s, they went so far as to remove their female employees from the factories because they learned that PFOS exposure could harm their unborn children and like you said, cause very serious birth defects. And even in the 90s, they learned that their employees were more at risk for cancer development and death than the general population. But they didn't tell anybody.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Well now, DuPont, is the case that I tried in Ohio and the information they had in their files was something they kept secret.
Madeline Pendley: Right.
Mike Papantonio: You know, and, and now we're just catching up. If you were to talk to 10 people and you were to say, what do you know about PFOS or PFAS? They don't even know what you're talking about.
Madeline Pendley: Right.
Mike Papantonio: So the biggest delivery system right now is through, as you point out, AFFF firefighting material, right?
Madeline Pendley: Yes. And so the way that works, it's, it's what you think about they use to put out fires in aircraft fires usually very large, very hot oil based fires. Spray the foam on there, it deprives the flame of oxygen and it does work much more quickly than water would. And so 3M to kind of launch this product had to get a little bit creative, did two main things. One, they pitched this product to the air force at a very vulnerable time for our military branches. We had recently had several very tragic events where we lost service members due to flames who were not able to put out in time. In comes 3M with their miracle product. You know, the air force picks it up and they start using it all over the country, you know, contaminating water all over the country because they didn't know this was dangerous. The other thing they did was they sold it to airports, just your everyday commercial airports and they actually helped create a regulation that required airports to purchase this type of foam. So they created a regulation that would ensure there's a market for their product. Again, didn't tell the airports how to properly clean this stuff up or what it could do to the people who are using it and that are exposed to it.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. The ugly part about it is, and you know, we're going to be at some point, well, look to understand it, all you have to do is watch the movie, "The Devil We Know."
Madeline Pendley: Right.
Mike Papantonio: It's on Netflix. It'll tell you everything you want about it. There's really nothing secretive about this right now. All of the facts are out there. They came out in the DuPont case that was, that we tried up in Ohio, but nevertheless, people don't know about it. There's another great movie, you know, it's called, "Dark Waters," but the Netflix movie, you can just go to Netflix and it'll, "The Devil We Know" will tell you the whole story. So my point is, there are no secrets. I mean, everything we're talking about is in the public domain right now.
Madeline Pendley: Right.
Mike Papantonio: We don't, can't talk about what's not in the public domain, but there's so much out there that people can look at and understand, but they have to, they have to educate themselves, don't they, about have dangerous this is.
Madeline Pendley: They do, and they have to learn what products this stuff is in. It's not enough to know that just, you know, the term PFOS means it's dangerous. What all does that encompass? What all products are exposed to that. A lot of people didn't know that fast food packaging contains variations of PFOS. You know, the food is soaking in it, and then it goes into your body and you absorb it. And I don't think people know that it's in our drinking water due to things like firefighting foam.
Mike Papantonio: You know, what's remarkable, 3M put all this product on the market. You know what they're selling now, they're selling a home filter system for $6,000 that you can buy to get their stuff out of your drinking water so you can feel safe about your children taking showers and drinking this stuff everyday. They're actually making money now by selling the solution, in about $6,000 you can add it to your home.
Madeline Pendley: Right.
Mike Papantonio: They want you to pay for it though.
Madeline Pendley: For they problem that they caused, exactly.
Mike Papantonio: Right. So I got, I guess where this lands right now is there's, there's litigation pending.
Madeline Pendley: Right.
Mike Papantonio: As litigation, as litigation progresses, when it's over, the whole story will be told. It's a startling story. It's a, it's a remarkable story, but at least "The Devil We Know" on Netflix begins to tell the story a little bit.
Madeline Pendley: It does.
Mike Papantonio: Thank you for joining me. Okay.
Madeline Pendley: Thank you.
Millions Of Americans Are Drinking Contaminated Water Every Single Day
Farron Cousins: Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced that they would be studying the impact of chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS's, and much to the chagrin of millions of people in this country who are drinking contaminated drinking water, those studies, the analyzing, it's not enough. People want action and unfortunately, we're not getting that action on the federal level. But a lot of people, even those who are drinking these toxic substances, don't even understand how bad these chemicals are.
So I'm joined now by attorney Wesley Bowden with the Levin Papantonio Law Firm, to help tell us the problem with these PFAS chemicals.
So Wesley, this is a big deal. This is something we've actually discussed on Ring of Fire in the past. PFAS's. Levin Papantonio handled a massive case that actually involved a certain PFAS C8.
Wesley Bowden: Right.
Farron Cousins: ... That poisoned countless people, still poisoning countless people to be honest, but that's not the only source of PFAS's. We're seeing them pop up. They're all over the place. They're in all kinds of different products. Tell us what kind of products are out there, that are putting these chemicals out there for the public.
Wesley Bowden: Right. So historically PFAS's were used in a wide variety of products. Really the main manufacturer was 3M. They made a chemical known as PFOS and DuPont used a chemical they purchased from 3M called C8 or PFOA. Those chemicals have been around since really, since the forties. They wound up in our products by the fifties and sixties. You would find them in coatings for cups that you get at McDonald's, wrappers for fast food, Scotchgard on your floors, clothing that had water repellent properties until just a few years ago. All of them use PFOS and PFOA and the industry started to make a change but the change was really just a slight of hand.
Farron Cousins: We've seen studies that come out, telling us that these chemicals, they're linked to all kinds of different cancers. They're linked to all other kinds of biological problems when they get into a human body. You've laid out some examples there. You know, it was in the fast food wrappers, the cups, the clothing, lots of different things, but one of the big sources, I guess we're seeing right now is actually in these firefighting foams.
Wesley Bowden: That's right.
Farron Cousins: We've had instances, actually here where we live, we've had a big problem with that. Colorado, about a year ago, dealt with a massive issue around one of their Air Force bases with these firefighting foams that then got the PFAS.
Explain how that works with the firefighting foam and why that's a problem for the whole community in the area.
Wesley Bowden: Right? Yeah and so the firefighting foams are a big source of contamination. So when a military base or an Air Force base, for example, is putting out burning jet fuel. If there's a airplane accident or if they're just simply burning off excess fuel, they would these foams to put them out.
We also use them just in our ordinary fire departments, for our training facilities, and actually in fire suppression. So once they spray these chemicals out into the environment, that foam worked its way down into our soil and worked its way down into our aquifers and wound up in our drinking water. The surfactant that's in that foam, can't be removed. You have to use carbon filtration, or you have to use reverse osmosis filtration. Both of these are very expensive and there'll be ongoing for years and years.
And the reason to be ongoing is that once released into the environment, these chemicals will stay there for a million years, is our best estimate. And that's not just a made up number. Scientists, DuPont scientists, 3M scientists, the people who use these products and sold them to consumers and sold them to people who would be spraying it onto our environment, didn't tell them how persistent this chemical would be and because of that, we've got a global problem.
Farron Cousins: So these chemicals essentially are going to outlive humanity, basically. I mean, just purely on an evolutionary standpoint, a million years, humanity is probably not going to be around anymore. I mean, that's how serious we're talking about with these particular chemicals. And again, we've covered the issues on Ring of Fire of how toxic they are to the human body.
But there's another part of the story here, is it's not just the people who ingest them, which right now I think the Environmental Working Group says you get between 40 and 60 million people, whose drinking water is contaminated with this.
Well, okay, if you the consumer understand this and you know it and you know your area has been contaminated, now what? Now what? You know, I can't drink my own water and that's what's kind of sparking a lot of these lawsuits. It's not just people who have been poisoned. It's the people who say, "Well, now I have a home that I can't even use the water. I can't cook. I can't drink. I can't make baby formula. What do I do?" And what do those people do in this?
Wesley Bowden: Well, unfortunately, the only thing they really can do is to get an alternative source of water. In our area, we find that the Navy is actually giving people bottled water, big jugs of water to use to rinse their baby bottles in, to prepare their food in, to drink on a daily basis.
Unless you have a clean source of drinking water, you're going to continue to dose yourself with these chemicals, which have been linked to human disease, including cancer. There's really nothing that people can do to determine this themselves. They have to have their water district or the government come in and test for these chemicals.
In our area, for example, these chemicals have been around for decades. We did not find out about it until about 60 days ago. They started doing testing of private wells around some of our airfields. So this problem is I think going to grow in scope. I think that as the government continues to test and as our local water supplies continue to test, we're going to find that this is a massive, massive problem.
So I think that initial estimate of 40 or 60 million people having contaminated water is likely much higher. This isn't something that you or I could go to the store and pick up a test kit for. It requires a certified lab to discover this and to look for it.
Farron Cousins: With the Environmental Working Group, unfortunately for us in this area, actually lists us as we are right here where we are one of the worst. We're not the worst, but as usual, this area, horrible drinking water; historically bad and now we've got to contend with the fact that we have these extra dangerous chemicals floating around in our water.
Wesley Bowden, thank you very much for telling us the story and thank you for staying on top of this issue for us.
Wesley Bowden: Thank you for having me.
Mike Papantonio Exposes One of the Worst Environmental Disasters Of the Past Century
Papantonio: C8 is a product that the DuPont corporation used to manufacture Teflon. In the process of manufacturing Teflon, DuPont pumped millions of pounds of C8 directly into the Ohio River, and that cancer-causing toxin ended up in the drinking water of more than 70,000 residents along the Ohio River, all along the valley. Not only did the cancerous toxin end up in the drinking water of men, women, and children along that Ohio Valley, it also ended up and it's going to remain in that population's blood for 20 to 25 years. The biggest problem with having that poison in their blood is that it causes cancer. As a matter of fact, a federal judge had a team of specialized epidemiologists study the damage that the C8 poison causes to the human body, and that team concluded that the C8 poison that DuPont dumped into the Ohio River starting in 1950 caused kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and a host of illness that can be fatal.
Here's what we know: as early as 1961, DuPont toxicologists reported that the C8 poison used to produce Teflon was producing extreme liver abnormalities in laboratory animals. Even as early as 1961, DuPont was telling their own employees that C8 should be used with extreme care, but you know what? They didn't tell the public that. They kept it secret. Then by 1988, DuPont was warning their own employees that C8 could cause cancer, but again, they weren't telling the public. They wanted to keep that secret. Then again, in 1997, DuPont told their employees that C8 could cause cancer again, but again, they kept that secret from the men, women, and children who were drinking the contaminated C8 toxic water every single day.
The documents clearly show that DuPont had a reason to keep the toxicity of C8 a secret. As a matter of fact, when you go back and look, this document shows as early as 1992 that DuPont was concerned that their C8 contamination would become their number one personal injury concern, but still they continued to keep that information secret from the people who were drinking the water every single day.
By 2001, DuPont's chief in-house lawyer predicted that when the public found out about why and how these people were contracting cancer, that DuPont would be hit with punitive damages by a jury. That lawyer, he was ignored. They didn't listen to him, and just last week a jury in Columbus, Ohio punished the DuPont company for their reckless conscious disregard for the safety of health and safety of the entire community who drank that water. A jury returned a verdict against DuPont for $12.5 million. That jury saw documents like the one on the screen that shows that DuPont scientists were so concerned about the dangers of C8, that high levels of C8 might require the public to actually wear gas masks in order to live safely along parts of the Ohio Valley. The bad news is that the incriminating and remarkably callous documents went downhill even from that.
To talk about DuPont's poisoning of the Ohio Valley is Gary Douglas, one of the trial lawyers who tried the case against DuPont last week. Gary, take us all the way back to the beginning of the C8 story. What is this chemical, and why did DuPont start using it to begin with?
Douglas: Well, Mike, you know the story well, and by the way, thanks for having me here. I guess it goes back to the 1950s when this miracle concept of a Teflon pan and the non-stick pan was going to change everybody's lives in the good old days of 1950s, but what was happening secretly behind closed doors in DuPont's laboratories as they made billions selling Teflon, was they needed this chemical C8, which as you know is a poisonous and causes cancer, they needed this chemical to make the product. Behind closed doors in their secret laboratories, they understood way back in the late 50's and early 60's that it was potentially toxic and possibly may cause cancer.
They started over decades to conduct a series of tests on laboratory animals from rats to rabbits and beagles and monkeys, and you know this story well, Mike. They got the news that they didn't want to have, which was that it was in fact something that can cause cancer and was extremely harmful to people, especially if it got into folks' drinking water, which as you know and as you explained before, they were dumping it by the tens of thousands of pounds into the Ohio River and emitting it from their massive smoke stacks into the sky, and it made its way across the river into the well fields where people, innocent folks, would get their drinking water from. That's how this whole story unfolded, and it was kept secret.
Papantonio: Gary, you were able to show in trial, you actually have hit DuPont, you've hit them three times. I think the first time you hit them for 1.6 million. The second time you hit them for 5.6 million. This time you hit them for $12.5 million. After handling those cases, is it apparent to you that after very few years, the company understood that their own studies showed that C8 was a compound that was poison and would potentially cause human disease? Was there any question that a jury could have to wrangle with in the cases that you've tried?
Douglas: There is no question, and I think the reason for the increase in the verdicts is because we're learning how to deal with how they have tried to defend and obfuscate the truth over the years. I like to say they're in the business of manufacturing deniability, and rather than own it, and step up to the plate, and be transparent with the folks who are drinking their poison, who were unknowingly drinking their poison, they went about a strategy to hide and obfuscate and create deniability and do studies that were designed to find nothing. They hid the fact for years from these poor, innocent folks that C8 was in their drinking water.
Papantonio: Gary, you have about 3,600, 3,700 cases just how Ohio Valley right now. Again, you've shown this company time and time again. The juries just are furious once they hear the facts. Is the company softening on their position? Are they trying to do the decent thing, and that is to pay these people for their cancers, and their thyroid disease, and the all sort of [colitis 00:07:00] disease that they're suffering from?
Douglas: Unfortunately, Mike, I don't think so. I think this is one of the most egregious cases of corporate malfeasance in the history of America. I just think it's a corrupt corporate mentality where they have for decades dug their heels in to fight this, and they just can't get passed themselves, and they continue to dig themselves in. We hope that with these verdicts one after the next, then one after the next that some folks at corporate headquarters are going to wake up and say, "Well, what the heck is going on here? It's time to do the right thing for these f-, poor folks in the Ohio Valley."
Papantonio: I heard about the job you and a lawyer from our firm, Wes Bowden, did on that case up in Columbus, Ohio this last go around. I think what the jury apparently was most impressed with was your level of range at what you had seen. You talked about in one of your closings the fact that one thing that made you so angry was the fact that this is a biopersistant poison that's in these people's blood for 20 to 25 years. Talk about that a little bit.
Douglas: Well, you mentioned a little bit about the outside of the show. I just got to say, by the way, you mentioned Wes Bowden, who is a terrific trial lawyer, and couldn't have had this last victory in court without him, but the biopersistance is something that resonates with folks because as we're sitting there in court and our client, Kenny Vigneron, his cancer was diagnosed in 1997, he still has this cancer-causing chemical all of these decades later coursing through his blood.
This is something that I think resonates with jurors or anybody who has a sense of some sort of decency. They didn't just pollute the river, they polluted people, and they didn't just pollute people, they polluted them with a chemical that will not leave their body for decades. You have to walk around for decades knowing that this chemical that may cause cancer is still coursing through your blood. It just resonates with jurors, and it is easier to get enraged and angry when you're trying a case like that.
Papantonio: Well, they said that your closing argument was superb, and I've seen that anger before. I know in this case it simply is appropriate, but I'm wondering about how ... This started in 1950. How is it that corporate media never reported this story, and they're still really under-reporting this story about how serious this is? What's your take on how that happened? Why is there no story out there from corporate media?
Douglas: Well, of course, it doesn't help the corporate America for jurors and folks to hear about stories like this and how things really work, and that chemical companies like DuPont just about have free reign. You think that the EPA is out there, we'd like to think, anyway, the EPA is out there and our government's out there protecting us from companies that may dump harmful chemicals in our drinking water or pollute the air, but the fact is there's only so much that they can do.
These corporate entities like Dow, DuPont, you name the company, they're so entangled with the regulators that these stories get suppressed, and I think just folks get desensitized to this. We've heard so many stories like this that it's just hard to get traction amongst regular folks, but again, it's like folks like you, Mike, and you failed to mention that we tried those first two cases together, and you're a mentor of mine, and you know that one of the ways to get the message out is to try these cases, and that's what we're doing.
Papantonio: Gary, I got to tell you something. I really mean this. I honestly believe you're one of the best trial lawyers in this country, and it pleases me to know that you're out there going after DuPont. I know the people in the Ohio Valley are going to get justice. On behalf of those people, I certainly thank you for the effort that you've shown in this last trial. Thank you very much, Gary. Thank you for joining me.
Douglas: Thank you, Mike.
Internal C8 Lawsuit Documents Show DuPont’s Contempt For Human Life
Corporate heavyweight DuPont is back in court right now defending their decision to poison an entire community along the Ohio River by releasing a toxic chemical known as C8 into the river.
C8 is a chemical that's used in the manufacturing of the company's blockbuster product, Teflon. The case alleges the DuPont officials were intimately aware of the dangerous side effects of C8 exposure but still decided to allow exposure among workers and by releasing the chemical into the environment.
Once the chemicals were dumped into the Ohio River they seeped into the water supply of nearby communities resulting in thousands of people being exposed to dangerous levels of C8.
Complicating the exposure problem is the fact that C8 is bio-persistent meaning that it does not break down in the body or in the environment and instead continues to build as exposure increases.
The case currently before the court is being handled by Mike Papantonio, co-host of Ring of Fire. This is the second trial that Pap has handled in the last year with the first resulting in a jury award of $1.6 million for a woman who developed a cancerous tumor on her kidneys.
In that case the jury found that DuPont did act negligently but not with malice. However, the malice argument might be easier to prove now that a host of documents have been unsealed from the ongoing trial. The documents show that DuPont was well aware of the dangers of C8 dating all the way back to 1961 and in many instances their own environmental lawyers privately questioned the companies decision to pretend that a problem didn't exist.
Here are just a few items found within these documents which have been made available by the Levin Papantonio Law Firm. In November 1961, a top DuPont toxicologist informed the company that C8 used in the production of Teflon was toxic. 1961. In February 1961 DuPont becomes aware that C8 exposure in rats was linked to enlargement of the testes, kidneys and adrenal glands.
Fast forward to September 1979. DuPont learned that monkeys exposed to high levels of C8 died and that their workers exposed to C8 showed abnormal liver functions in lab tests. Two years later in April 1981, DuPont recognized the link between C8 exposure and birth defects and actually removed pregnant women from C8 projects in order to limit their exposure. Later that year, November 21 years after the company recognized C8 as toxic they finally recommended limiting workers' overall exposure to C8.
October 1983, DuPont scientists grow concerned about the levels of C8 being dumped by the company into the Ohio River. That's 1983. The company itself was concerned about the dumping into the Ohio River which was the central issue of this lawsuit.
Another year later, DuPont learned of the link between C8 and testicular cancer. That was March of 1988. DuPont then internally classified C8 as a possible human carcinogen. So they knew it was in the public water supply at the time but they did not tell the public even though they themselves classified it as a possible, human, carcinogen.
In February 1995 DuPont internal memos shows that the company was concerned about the potential health affect associated with C8 exposure. In August 1999, in two separate emails, a DuPont, environmental attorney talked about C8.
"Too bad the business wants to hunker down as if everything will not come out. God knows how they could be so clueless."
In August of 2000, DuPont's in house lawyers again wrote, "The ... is about to hit the fan in West Virginia. The lawyer for the farmer finally realizes the surficant C8 issue and is threatening to go to the press to embarrass us to pressure us to settle for big bucks. Finally the plant recognize it must get public first, something I have been urging over a year. Better late than never. We are hoping plaintiff does not get there the next couple days. We need about a week. We boned ourselves again. Such is life in big and I suspect little companies."
In 2014, DuPont finally stopped dumping C8 into the Ohio River. That was 53 years from the time that the company acknowledged C8 was toxic until they stopped dumping it into the Ohio River. That was 16 years between the end of the dumping and the companies acknowledgement that C8 was a human carcinogen. Not once during that time did they announce to the public that their lives could be in danger.
Nor did the Environmental Protection Agency step forward to warn the public about the dangers they were being exposed to in spite of the fact that DuPont had been fined $16.5 million by the agency in 2005 for concealing the dangers of C8.
Now one of the worst aspects of this story is that it continuously overlooked ... Is the fact that DuPont has replaced this carcinogenic compound with another chemical that could be equally as dangerous. This chemical is known as C6.
The current trial is going to be coming to a close in the next week or so but there is still more than 3500 cases left to go to trial and as the case develops more documents like those just mentioned are undoubtedly going to come to light giving us a more complete picture of DuPont's callous disregard for human life.
In Ohio Lawsuit Jury Says DuPont Acted With Malice By Dumping C8 Poison
Earlier this week, the jury in Columbus Ohio rewarded a plaintiff 5.1 million dollars in a lawsuit against DuPont because the company had been releasing a chemical know as C8 into the Ohio river. Those affected by it, over 3500 different lawsuits, had developed certain types of cancers. In this particular case, the plaintiff had developed testicular cancer that was directly linked to DuPont's C8 chemical.
Mike Papantonio from Ring of Fire is the one who tried this case, along with an attorney named Gary Douglas, and a few other attorneys from Mike Papantonio's law firm. This is the second legal victory that they have had against DuPont for the C8 cases. There are 3500 cases still pending against DuPont for their poisoning of the Ohio river valley.
What's so interesting about this particular case are the documents that have come out of it. We know now that it took 53 years from the time the company classified C8 as a toxin to the time they stopped dumping it in the Ohio river. This isn't something that was done a long time ago. In the year 2014 is when they finally stopped dumping this chemical into the Ohio river. At that time, they had known for almost twenty years that exposure to this chemical caused cancer.
They kept this information from the public for as long as possible. DuPont's conduct in this case is very typical of what we see from corporate america, time after time. We've seen it with the chemical giants Monsanto, we see it with big pharma, we see it with the oil industry. We see it all the time. Here's why this matters. These same corporations: DuPont, Dow, Monsanto, Exxon, Pfizer. They're pulling the strings of our government by funding campaigns, by funding politicians.
What's really disturbing is that these politicians have absolutely no qualms about taking money from these potentially criminal organizations. These are companies that have absolutely no regard for human life. The only thing they understand are dollars and the power that they get from those dollars. That's why this verdict this week, and the remaining 3500 lawsuits, are so important. That is the only way to hold corporate America responsible. God knows the politicians in Washington, because they're bought and paid for, aren't going to do a damn thing about it.
Lawsuits Show DuPont Poisoned Water for 50 Years | Interview with Mike Papantonio
Abby: Last month, dozens of West Virginia residents filed a federal lawsuit against the chemical company, DuPont. The case is one of thousands that have been filed against the company seeking compensation for damage DuPont caused to people's drinking water by leaking the chemical C8.
Joining me now to discuss the case and DuPont's history with poisoning people, I'm joined by Mike Papantonio, attorney, host, of Ring of Fire radio. Amazing to have you on, Mike.
Mike: Good to be here.
Abby: First, explain what C8 is and what effects it has on humans.
Mike: C8 is used in Teflon. They use it to make the product, Teflon, and, unfortunately, a group of scientists looked at it ... In fact, some of them were appointed by the judge, a federal judge, determined that the product has the ability to cause testicular cancer. It causes liver cancer and it causes prostate cancer. I guess the edge to this story is this company, DuPont, has known about the dangers of this product for an awful long time.
To me, Abby, this story, it's a great example of the difference in our justice system. Here we have white collar criminals, there's no other way to put it, that have dumped ... As early as the 1950s, they understood how dangerous this product was. It wasn't just put out there arbitrarily. It was put into drinking aquifer for two communities that have been drinking this for years. The company absolutely knew as early as the 80s that it was causing birth defects. They had problems with birth defects related to it. As a matter of fact, Abby, it was so bad that 3M, one of the companies that, also, made the product said, "We can't make it anymore. It's too dangerous," but DuPont stayed on with it, and right now they continue selling products with Teflon in it, and they're dangerous products.
Abby: Oh, my God. It's just so unbelievable. Let's talk about what case these people have, because, of course, DuPont's been fighting paying out compensation for years and years and years. I know that there's an impetus right now where they can potentially pay out, but I wanted to talk about what case they actually had. Can they prove criminal intent to harm?
Mike: Well, that's a great question. That's what the US government seems to be avoiding. If I were a prosecutor, not only would I show that this company, DuPont, over the years, committed perjury by lying to government about the dangers of the product. They knew. They were asked about, and they covered up.
The other thing, this is the equivalent, Abby, of somebody coming to your home and saying, "By the way, do you mind if I pour arsenic into your drinking water? Is that okay?" That's criminal assault, but there's been no attempt by the government to do anything to these folks. Imagine your neighbor doing that. Your neighbor would be in prison, because the intent is there, because of the reckless nature of it. He doesn't have to say, "I intended to poison Abby." The police have to establish it was so reckless, so indifferent to your health, Abby, that this is a crime.
There's no difference here. Let me tell you, I prosecuted well enough to understand this is something that a case could be brought. We're going to try the case, and we're going to let the public look at it one more time and we're going to let the government look at it one more time, and make the government come out say, "You know what? We heard all that bad stuff, but we're not going to take any action anyway." We want to put it out there and let the government have the guts and the audacity to say, "We're going to treat these people different than we might treat somebody who is selling an ounce of marijuana on the corner."
Abby: This brings up the whole concept of structural violence, because you just brought up a really, really important. If I went down to a river and just dumped twenty barrels of toxic sludge or some sort of chemical in there, I'd be in jail. I'd be faced with millions of dollars in fines. Why is it that people can't compute that on a large scale, this is criminal. This is murderous.
Mike: Well, they can. They can compute ... We can do this ...
Abby: The system.
Mike: Yes. We can compute the number of deaths. We can computer the number of cancers that will possibly resolve, hopefully, but what we're able to do is we're able to go document by document. You see, I'm able to take depositions now. I'm able to ask tough questions of people that were in charge, and I have the documents, and I can show it to them, and I said, "Did you write this?" If they wrote the document, isn't the question why aren't they suffering a criminal process? How are they different than anybody else? They have a white collar. They have a degree from Yale, so we don't prosecute them? That's the nature of where we are as a society right now.
Abby: It shows you corporations are people, but they can't be held accountable for anything that the people that make up the corporation do that's criminal. How can we turn this two tier justice system around? What advice do you have for people who are just trying to fight these Goliaths here?
Mike: Courage. It's going to take courage from attorney generals that say, "When you do bad things to bad people, when you hurt decent people and you poison them and you cause these kinds of problems, you have to pay, whether you're wearing a three piece Armani suit with a Rolex watch, or whether you just happen to be somebody on the street committing a crime." We are in the midst of the worst distinction between white collar crime and run of the mill crime. I don't think we've ever seen a time like this.
Think about this, Abby. Even Ronald Reagan, for God's sake, threw eight hundred bankers in jail for white collar crime. You've seen nothing like that through the Clinton years. You've seen nothing like that with Obama, and until we get an attorney general who says, "Damn it, we have to treat people all the same," DuPont, this DuPont case, is going to surface again and again in communities all over this country.
Abby: You said that you have all the documents. This is being forced to come to a head, and the government, what happens if the government, dare I say, says the worst, the worst that we fear. That they say that they're not going to be held responsible.
Mike: Then, you know what, that won't surprise me. What I'm committed to do is there's only a couple of ways to hurt white collar criminals. That is to either put them in jail for being a criminal, or to take all of their money away from them. Hopefully, I'll have the argument to show a jury how much this company is worth, how much they've made year after year, while these people have suffered with cancer, died with cancer. Watched their mothers, their loved ones die of cancer. I get to show a jury what this company has made by staying silent, and then ask the jury, "If you want to hurt these people, make them pay, because it's the only damn thing this corporation understands."
Abby: Why can't more attorneys be like you? Mike Papantonio, host of Ring of Fire radio. You're sitting in for Tom Hartman on the Big Picture tonight. Thank you so much for coming on for your insight, as always.
DuPont Chemical Company Approaches Crime Syndicate Quality with its C8 Poisoning, Lawsuits Reveal
Thom: In the best of the rest of the news DuPont Chemical has been engaged in an intense legal battle for the last fifteen years about a man made chemical called C8 that was used extensively in a number of products for much of the last century.
That chemical is called C8 because of its eight carbon chain which makes up the central part of the chemical. C8 is an exceptionally stable chemical and the structure of the chemical also causes it to break the surface tension of water, thus it's waterproof and because of it's waterproof nature and its stable structure for more than sixty years C8 was a key chemical used in the production of Teflon. It was later used in products like Gortex, microwave popping bags, fast food wrappers, coffee cups, bicycle lubricants.
It was produced mainly in an DuPont plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia on the Ohio river which gave the company an easy way to dispose the chemical until the 1960s. According to a 2007 study based on DuPont's purchasing records the plant was putting out an estimated 19,000 pounds of C8 into the air in 1984. By 1999 that amount had increased to 87,000 pounds of C8 being released in both the air and the water. According to that study between 1951 and 2003 the Parkersburg plant had spread nearly two and a half million pounds of C8 into the surrounding areas.
C8 is such a stable chemical most of those chemicals have spread beyond the local environment and continue to persist. Now, even though the chemical didn't exist a century ago, C8 is in the blood of 99.7% of American's, as well as in newborn human babies, breast milk and even umbilical cord blood. That is really bad news because C8 has been connected with ulcerative colitis, rectal cancer, testicular cancer, swelling of the liver and birth defects.
What is happening with this chemical now and why was DuPont allowed to dump so much of this chemical into our air and our waterways?
Here now to discuss what DuPont knew about C8, how they covered it up and what is happening with the ongoing lawsuits against the chemical giant is Sharon Learner, journalist and author of The War on Moms: On Life and Family in an Unfriendly Nation and a senior fellow at Demos. She's also a frequent contributor to the Intercept where you can now find the third part of her three part investigative piece about the history of C8 and DuPont's cover up of its danger.
Sharon, welcome back.
Sharon Learner: Thanks for having me. Hi.
Thom: Great to see you again. What brought this issue to your attention?
Sharon Learner: Well, you know, I actually started researching the New Jersey piece of this story which, if you haven't read part three that comes in part three. New Jersey had begun to regulate this chemical or I should say they were proposing a safe water standard, drinking water standard for C8.
There is this little group of water experts appointed by the state that is charge of drinking water quality in New Jersey and they were quietly going about their business and after they came forward with a proposed drinking water standard for New Jersey, which would have been the lowest and the most stringent in the nation, the board was shut down. Although it met very regularly, several times a year for more than twenty years after they came up with that proposal it was shut down for almost four years entirely.
I was looking into that and I was trying to figure out what was going on there. I knew it was a DuPont made chemical and I was talking to folks in the DEP there and just trying to understand what happened and then I realized that there was this much bigger lawsuit that was happening. One of the lawyers I ended up getting ahold of some expert testimony and some of the legal documents in that case and it became clear to me that it is a much bigger story and that it was worth trying to write the whole thing or trying to summarize the whole thing. It really is a huge issue.
Thom: Right. Why do you think it has taken so long for this to get any public attention? This is the kind of story that twenty, thirty years ago 60 Minutes was all over.
Sharon Learner: Yeah. Well, I think partly because it is so complicated. We did three pieces in the Intercept and I think it was more than sixteen thousand words and I feel like I left huge parts out because there is just so much to it. It is so difficult to explain. It requires an understanding of the history of the company, which started making the chemical in 1954, and because it is a company of scientists and because they have the very first in house toxicology lab they ended up doing all this research on the chemical. Part of the problem was that they didn't report much of what they did even though some of it was very disturbing and showed indications of health effects in animals and later in humans.
Just kind of getting through that bit of it is huge and then what has happened since then is that, as you were mentioning in your introduction, there has been major contamination of this area in West Virginia and Ohio and so the people in the surrounding area ending up filing a class action suit.
That is this other, huge complicated part of this story. What happened was they ended up coming up with this settlement and part of settlement was that they were using this money from DuPont to pay for research in the community to figure out if exposure to the chemical actually caused health problems which is something that wasn't entirely clear for a long time and, as you mentioned earlier, what that group of scientists ending up finding was that C8 exposure was probably linked to six illnesses. They are testicular cancer, kidney cancer, I think you mentioned earlier another kind of cancer. Rectal cancer and it was actually ulcerative colitis. Anyways, there is six diseases in all and so that became this other huge kind of messy scientific problem.
The last piece which, as you mentioned is up, is up now on the Intercept goes into another really complicated area which is how, and I should say this is an unregulated chemical which is to say we don't have a national drinking water standard for it. It's not regulated through the Toxin Substances Control Act or the Clean Water Drinking Act. We don't have a safe level set so how the EPA dealt with this chemical is a long story and that is what part three tells.
Thom: Aside from its, you know, its dispersion into the environment is huge. That is a huge story and the workers of the plant and all this stuff. I'm curious Teflon, or varieties of Teflon I guess is fairly ambiguous from pizza boxes to coffee cups to popcorn, microwave popcorn containers to cooking utensils. Is it dangerous?
Sharon Learner: Well, you know the EPA did some good research on the risks of exposure. I think you may have also mentioned in your introduction that virtually all of us have this chemical in our blood.
Thom: Right. The C8.
Sharon Learner: It is not completely understood how we got exposed. Definitely consumer products are part of it. That said, the Teflon pans is not the major source. I think it is actually you mentioned microwave popcorn bags as one but an even bigger source of exposure, we think, is the stain proof coating that goes on carpets which is especially a concern for infants and toddlers who are crawling around on carpets. I think also stain proof and waterproof clothing.
Thom: Wow. There is currently litigation around this. What is the essence of that litigation and where is it going?
Sharon Learner: Okay so there was this class action suit I mentioned which stemmed from the contamination in West Virginia and Ohio and partly the settlement of that suit in 2005 came up with this science panel. Another part of it said that whatever the science panel finds if there are any linked diseases and, as I mentioned, there were six, then the people in the class who have those diseases can sue for personal injury.
There are thirty five hundred of those cases that are coming up now. The first of them is coming to trial in September in Ohio. We'll see what happens with those, whether they may settle or whether they are actually going to go in front of a jury. That is part of what's happening.
Thom: Yeah. That's remarkable stuff. Sharon Learner, thanks so much for the great investigative reporting you're doing, sharing the stories with us on the Intercept. Is there a fourth piece coming?
Sharon Learner: We don't have one planned yet but we'll see what happens. Maybe I'll cover the trials.
Thom: It sure looks to me like you've got at least the good, solid beginnings of a book here Sharon. Thanks a lot for being with us tonight.
Sharon Learner: Okay thanks so much.
According to Lawsuit Allegations, DuPont Knowingly Poured C8 Cancer Poison into the Ohio River and Turned a Blind Eye
Camp: The whole nation has been talking about the poisoning that's gone on in Flint, Michigan there. There's been relatively little coverage though about the poisoning connected to DuPont and the tainting of water supplies. You've been on top of that case. I'm wondering, Mike, why don't you care about the people of Flint, Michigan? I'm just kidding.
Papantonio: Actually, I was called to be involved in that case. The difficulty is that's more of a criminal case. People are going to have to go to jail. Now if I were given the chance on the DuPont case that's being tried in Ohio, as a matter of fact I'd go to trial in the first of June, if I were given the choice, do I put the CEOs and the people who poisoned 70,000 people, do I put them in prison or do we try to get money damages? All day long if you said to me, "What's the choice?" I'd say, "Put them in prison, that actually changes things." When people go to prison, it changes things. When I hit them for a big verdict, they don't care. When the federal government fines them for whatever their wrongdoing is, they don't care. This is a company who knowingly poisoned, I do not overstate that a bit, Lee.
They knowingly poisoned 70,000 people by way of their drinking water, by way of their air. Those 70,000 people, you know what? They have this poison in their blood today. It will be in their blood for 25 years. The company understands that C8 that's in their blood will cause 3 types of cancers and a whole host of gastrointestinal disease that can be life-changing, if not fatal.
Camp: This is connected to the making of Teflon, right? How do we know that they knew what they were doing?
Papantonio: We have the documents. They started calling C8 poison as early as the 1960s. They said it's highly toxic. We know it will kill monkeys, animals of all kinds. On top of that, we have the document that says, "We know the testing that we did on animals has a direct relationship to what it will do to humans." We have the chief lawyer with the company, the number one lawyer with the company saying, "What we have done is deplorable. We've created a liability for 32 years. We're going to get hit with punitive damages because of our bad conduct." That's the number one guy and the lawyer working for this company. There's no guess work here, Lee. The jury can see the documents. The document says, "We know it's poison. We know it causes cancer and by the way, keep it quiet. Don't tell anybody." That's the caliber of criminality that we see, but you know what, Lee? Not one person has gone to prison. The Department of Justice has not even done an investigation for 15 years. They have all the information and choose to do nothing about it.
Camp: I think you're absolutely right that without jail time, usually these settlements are practically like a parking ticket for some of these guys. Goldman Sachs paying $5 billion for their role in the 2008 crisis, and it's a slap on the wrist. It means nothing to them. It basically encourages the behavior because they know what the cost is, and the cost is not that great.
Camp: One CEO that did go to jail is this guy ahead of the peanut corporation that was convicted of giving people salmonella tainted peanut butter. Basically, that's because he was a small corporation, not DuPont, not Goldman Sachs. Is that basically what it is?
Papantonio: That's exactly the right. As a matter of fact, the back story on that is the Department of Justice calculated they had to put somebody in jail because they're getting so much criticism that they are absolutely ignoring white collar crime, and they're throwing kids that are selling 2 ounces of marijuana on the corner, throwing them in jail. They were under huge, huge, extreme pressure to do something. That's the only reason anything happened here. Meantime, Goldman Sachs who knowingly defrauded Mom and Pop, defrauded the economy for $18 trillion, nobody goes to prison. In this particular DOJ, under the leadership of Loretta Lynch has done nothing any different than Eric Holder, which was let them go, simply fine them. What we see in the documents, this is astoundingly what we see in the documents on all of these corporations just like DuPont. They say we can poison, and we can kill x number of people, and it will cost us $2 or $3 billion. In the meantime, we're going to make $40 billion, so it's a pretty good risk for us. That's what we see constantly with these companies whether it's pharmaceuticals. Whatever it is, we see it all the time.
Camp: To tie these 2 main topics we've been talking about together with our last 45 seconds here, is the root of all this problem, is it money and politics? These corporations get away with all this bullshit because they own our politicians? It comes down to money and politics?
Papantonio: It comes to that, and it comes to the very person, the only person that might change things, may not have a chance to do anything because the established Democrats don't want him there because they owe so much to Wall Street. They owe so much to the Chamber of Commerce and corporate America.
Camp: Thank you for all your brilliant truth bombs that you've laid down once again.
After Lawsuit Pressure, DuPont Replaces C8 Poison with Another Poison
Farron: DuPont is one of of the longest operating companies in the United States. They're also one of the most dangerous. For decades, and maybe even longer than that, the company has been dumping poisonous toxins into the environment. These toxins then make their way into the bodies of human beings and animals, causing life-threatening conditions that may never go away. When they phase out one toxic chemical, they replace it with something just as deadly, and that's exactly what's happening right now with the company.
Joining me to explain what's happening is Sharon Lerner, an investigative journalist who's chronicling DuPont's deception for The Intercept. Sharon, you've done some phenomenal work covering the C8 story with DuPoint. Now your latest set for The Intercept is talking about a new chemical that DuPont has used to replace C8, has some serious problems. Before we get into that, take us really quickly back down the road of C8, and give everybody a quick primer on that particular chemical.
Sharon: C8, which is called that because the perfluorinated compound, it's a chain of eight carbons with fluorines attached to it. It's a very stable compound, which has been incredibly useful in industry. It was made initially by 3M, which sold a huge quantity to DuPont, which used it for years and years to make Teflon, and then many, many other products. Over those years, starting in the early 50s, the company began to learn more and more about the chemical, and primarily the things of concern that it learned was that it was harmful to lab animals in various ways. Also, they realized it was spreading into the environment outside their main plant that produced it, which was in West Virginia, into the water there, and through the air, through the soil, also in New Jersey around a plant it had there.
The reason that the stories that I wrote, and since then other stories have come out about it was because it became a huge legal issue. As you mentioned earlier, they are now thousands of pending cases against DuPont because we learned eventually, the public learned, though DuPont had known for years before, that it was, in fact, dangerous. What we learned from something called the C8 Health Project, and the C8 Science Panel, was that in large populations you could see that this chemical had health affects. Namely there are six main conditions that it was linked to, two of them being testicular cancer and kidney cancer. It was a huge legal issue, and a huge dawning realization for folks, both those living in the area and then really for everyone. This is now a chemical that is in the blood of virtually everyone at this point, because it is so widely used in industry.
Farron: Reports have shown that even polar bears up in the Arctic are showing signs of C8 in their blood. That's how widespread and bio-persistent this toxin truly is. That's the story of C8 in a nutshell, really. Now DuPont says, several years ago they said, "We're going to phase out C8. We're going to bring in this new compound. It's going to be so much healthier for the environment. It's not going to harm people the way that C8 did." This chemical they're called GenX. You've just written a great piece on GenX. Tell us about this one.
Sharon: Thank you. GenX was the compound that DuPont introduced to replace C8. We should say that there was a voluntary phase out of C8 done between DuPont, several other companies that used and made it, and the EPA. Around 2006 was when they struck the agreement. By last year, 2015, nobody was supposed to used a fluorinated chemical that had eight carbons or more. That was it for C8. As they were phasing it out, DuPont was phasing in another chemical. That chemical, the product you named as GenX, it's based on a six-carbon molecule.
It turns out, that you mentioned, that they're promoting it as a healthier, more sustainable chemical, but it turns out that it causes many of the same health effects in lab animals that we saw with C8.
There's one way in which C6 is clearly an improvement as I understand it, and that is that it stays in human's blood for longer, it's less bio-persistent. In pretty much every other way, it seems to be just as bad. It never breaks down, so we're talking about geologic time. It will likely be present on Earth long after humans are gone from it.
As I mentioned, it does the same thing to animals that we saw with C8. I know this because the 8(e) reports, which are reports that the company is required to submit to the EPA when they see a substantial risk of harm to human health or the environment. We found a big number of these. They were basically reports from DuPont of their own experiments on C6, and some of them showed that they cause similar tumors in rats that we saw with C8. Again, they also cause kidney and liver problems. Same kind of things we saw with C8.
I have shared those documents with toxicologists and other scientists who are familiar with C8 and have done work on the health effects of C8. It looked the same to me, but I'm not a toxicologist. I shared it with those experts, and they said to me what I suspected, that it looks like exactly the same thing all over again. I should say, the one way in which it's an improvement, it doesn't last in your blood as long, I've spoken with experts on the chemical who said that doesn't necessarily mitigate the harm. As we are making more and more of this stuff, and it becomes more present in the environment, we continue to be exposed to it. Even though your body will clear it in days or months instead of years, if you are continually ingesting it and breathing it, then you're still exposed to it, and that negates that benefit that they're talking about.
Farron: The company, in its own reports, has shown that this new GenX chemical can be just as dangerous as C8. It is causing cancer in lab rats, liver cancers and other tumors, pancreas, testicular cancer, and tumors. Do they have any plans, at this point, to phase out GenX and maybe bring in something that's not as deadly, or is this just the new standard? This is their new cancer-causing chemical?
Sharon: We should say the they we're talking about now is no longer DuPont. DuPont spun off its fluorochemicals business to another company now called Chemours, which rhymes with Dinamours. It's still the baby of DuPont. Even though they didn't develop it, this is now their product. Is it the standard? Yeah, this is their product. The process of getting rid of, and let me note here, I was going to say getting rid of C8, but we should remember that the EPA never banned C8. It was a voluntary agreement. We never had any binding regulation on C8, even though it's popping up all over the country now. It's in all these water systems, and we've done reporting on how C8 and other chemicals are around military bases. It's in so many places, but you can't sue anyone to get it out of the water because it's not regulated yet.
That process, to get to just the voluntary phase out, took decades. The legal action began in 1999, but all the lead up in terms of accumulating the science, and the very, very slow dawning of the realization that it was a problem took many, many years. Now, this is an entirely different chemical. We're at the very beginning. We're at the beginning of the health research, we're at the beginning of any awareness. I really don't think there is any awareness. Given that C8 isn't regulated, the chances that C6 are regulated are even smaller, and they're going to be longer in coming.
Farron: As you've said, there's no real regulation. None of this is particularly banned. With C8 we saw the disposal process is what led to a lot of the contamination, because they were allowed to dump to this in the Ohio River, I believe, where it got into the drinking water. With this C6, this GenX, is the dumping process the same, or is there at least some process of safe dumping, whether barreling it up and putting it where it can never leach out, or what's happening with this?
Sharon: The chemical was the subject of a consent order, which means that when DuPont submitted to the EPA, and they have to at least announce that they're putting out a new chemical. I should say that in my reporting from the C8 reporting, when they were negotiating a phase out with the EPA, they were kind of calling the shots in many ways. They said, "We want to make sure that we have a smooth entrance for our replacement." That was one of the terms that they came up with.
In any case, C6 was subject to a consent order. The consent order said, among other things, that you have to do this research. Part of the research that they required is what ended up in those 8(e) reports that I found. The interesting thing is that once you get those 8(e) reports, presumably you're requiring the research because if it shows something bad, then something else happens. In this case it seems what happened was, they required this, and they found this stuff, and it got filed away. One of the folks I spoke with at the EPA actually acknowledged, he said, "These things often get filed away."
In response to your question, is there a new disposal process, one of the things they said was that yes, the company had to limit its releases and capture a good percentage of what it would be emitting. It's very hard to check up on any of that, and that's one of the thing that I was trying to show with one of the two pieces that just came out. For the most part, nobody even knew the chemical makeup of the replacement. How do you check on whether they're emitting it if you don't know what it is.
Farron: Sharon, you've done great work on this. Everyone needs to go to The Intercept and check all this out. We will have a link to it on our site. Sharon, thank you for talking with us today, and keep up the great work. We will check back in with you as often as possible. This is information that everybody who's watching this program, who's reading these stories online, we have to know it, and we have to share it, and we have to get this out there. Thank you very much for everything you've done.
Sharon: Thanks so much for having me on, I appreciate it.
How DuPont Recklessly Poisoned An Entire Valley with C8
Sam: Recently, I interviewed attorney Tim O’Brien about the lawsuit that he, and Mike Papantonio and several other attorneys have been handling against DuPont for polluting an entire town with a chemical known as C8. Ring of Fire Radio Sam Seder had the chance to speak with Tim the other day where they went into even further detail on this issue. Let’s take a look at that interview.
Tim, for people who have not followed this story, and there has been a lot written as of late in the New York Times and whatnot, tell us the story. What is it about C8? What is C8? Where was it made? How do we even know about this?
Tim: C8 came into the public parlance several years ago, really, about twenty years ago in the context of a condition known as toxic fume fever or Teflon fever where people were getting ill and when these Teflon pans were giving off gas. As litigation concerning a certain farmer in West Virginia whose cattle were dying because runoff from a DuPont plant in West Virginia was ending up in his stream that ran across his cattle land, that’s when the litigation began.
That’s when one gentleman by the name of Rob Bilott, an attorney in Ohio, began digging into this. What was discovered was that this DuPont plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia called Washington Works, which produced all the Teflon in the United States for DuPont, as DuPont’s product, using a chemical, a processing agent, a surfactant known as C8, which was made by 3M up in Minnesota. 3M shipped this product to DuPont to use as they would. DuPont used it. The problem here is, Sam …
Sam: Tim, let me just clarify something here for folks who don't know necessarily the terminology. C8 is not in Teflon. It is an industrial chemical that is used in the making of Teflon, right? It’s almost as if it was a machine, but in this instance it’s a chemical.
Tim: It is. A certain very small amount ends up in Teflon, but you’re absolutely right. It’s a processing agent that is not the product itself, but it’s a manufacturing agent that helps DuPont, actually, basically, disperse Teflon evenly across a pan or across a spatula or anything that would have the Teflon coating on it.
Sam: Interesting, and I should tell people in terms of that first case that Rob Bilott took of that farmer, that farmer shot some video. The farmer has since passed if I’m not mistaken. The video is available. I think The Intercept did a story on this. The video is available online. It’s really disturbing stuff. He’s going through and looking at the death of his cattle. This is a guy who’s been a cattle, the rancher for a long time. What he was looking at, he knew was different in some way.
Tim: Right, he put two and two together. He contracted Rob who is our trial partner on these cases with Mike Papantonio, my partner. What Mr. Tennant, the farmer found was wow, my creek is black and it’s foamy. It smells bad. There’s something wrong in this creek. Then he not only was seeing his cows dying and in agony, but he also saw many herds of deer were dying on his property all around this stream.
Where the stream came from was from a landfill on the DuPont property into which the C8 waste was being disposed of completely disregarding the instructions DuPont did that had been given to it by the actual manufacturer of C8 who sold it to DuPont and that’s 3M. 3M gave DuPont very special instructions on how to handle this hazardous chemical. DuPont just flat out ignored those instructions.
Sam: It’s quite obvious, but why do you think they ignored those instructions?
Tim: Well, I think that the folks at DuPont put it best. The real reason is, of course, money. It would cost DuPont or the Washington Works plant about a million, a million and a half a year to, totally, eliminate C8 from any type of pollution, whether it’s through discharge into the Ohio River, whether it’s through the smokestacks. Because of the way they confederate at DuPont, because they slice and dice the department heads’ budgets down to the smallest common denominator, the business leader said, “Wow, this is too expensive for the Teflon division,” even though it cost the company really nothing.
The long and short of it is you have a billion dollar portfolio, which is Teflon. The powers that be at DuPont said, “Well, in order to follow 3M’s recommendations and incinerate this product out of existence, that would cost us about a million, a million two of this billion-dollar-a-year portfolio.” The decision was made, well no, we’d rather keep that million dollars a year in-house and all the C8 out of our house and into the Ohio River.
Sam: We should say this is a classic case of a business basically, saying we’re going to increase our profit margins by shuttling the expense to society at large and hope that we never have to account for it. I certainly imagine those people who were impacted by this had wished that they would never have had to absorb that expense. It turned out they not only absorbed the chemical, but that it had incredibly bad health impact on them. What happens after this? Rob Bilott takes the case. This is in, I guess, the mid ‘90s. What then happens? How is the line drawn from DuPont’s dumping this C8 chemical into the water to the impact it had on human health?
Tim: To take a long decade of history and try and condense it, let me just say this. Rob essentially found out that not only were they putting this pollutant into the dump next to Mr. Tennant’s property, but as he also found out that they were actually discharging it directly into the Ohio River and polluting into the air. He found internal documents where DuPont knew in the early 1980s that this C8 was not staying put, that it had an affinity for water, that it followed wherever water goes, the C8 will go. It is not absorbed by the dirt, like so many other things in our atmosphere. What happened is this C8 actually finds its way into dozens of aquifers, which supply the water supply districts in this mid Ohio Valley.
As studies began being conducted, an alarming truth was found, which is number one, and DuPont knew this. This chemical is known as a bio-persistent chemical, which means it does not leave your body for decades once it’s there. Number two, it was concentrating because it’s stacked. If you drink C8, that C8 that you just drunk, ingested, doesn’t leave. Then you drink more C8. Then it stacks. Then you drink more C8 and it stacks on top of the stacked stack. Now, people were getting very high levels of serum concentrations of C8.
In the mid 2000s, as part of the class settlement that Rob Bilott was involved with, the court ordered DuPont to start conducting some medical monitoring to start doing some studies. At the end of this process, what was discovered by an independent scientific panel, approved by the court, what was discovered was this bio-persistent chemical that DuPont knew that it had been polluting the Ohio River with since 1951. That DuPont knew caused cancer, that DuPont knew for decades was toxic, that it had been linked, that the scientists had found that the diseases that were being caused by C8 included kidney cancer, testicular cancer, a horrible inflammatory bowel disease known as ulcerative colitis, just to name a few.
The long and short of it was that it was the litigation that Rob began with and then brought us into that really exposed not only to the public, but more importantly to the EPA DuPont’s dirty laundry. Finally, about one year ago, the EPA finally got DuPont to pull C8, to quit using C8. The problem is that …
Sam: Tim …
Tim: … the chemical is bio-persistent. It’s there for decades to come. It’s not going anywhere for decades now.
Sam: Instead of disposing of it a proper way, because it would have cost them extra money to do so, they began to basically, just dump this stuff. There was a belief and this is what’s fascinating to me. This, I guess, I’m constantly looking for some type of explanation how people can engage in this type of behavior. That many chemicals when they are dumped they get absorbed by the dirt and they just stay there. As long as nobody dredges it up, the chemicals aren’t going anywhere. This C8 apparently was not absorbed by the dirt.
Therefore, it leached into all these aqueducts, as you say. Through a series of litigations, an independent medical board was set up. Pick up the story again. I know you’re repeating a little bit. What did that independent medical board find? My understanding is that in the context of litigations, having a board like this that was funded by DuPont was a fairly rare occurrence, right? That they could, these epidemiologists could come in and actually measure what is the impact of this chemical being dispersed in such a wide radius.
Tim: Right. What happened with this class settlement was perhaps one of the greatest victories litigation has ever known in terms of not only trying to do justice by the victims, but also doing justice for knowledge because the massive amount of money that DuPont was required to pay into these studies looked not only at published literature and certain dry statistics. Instead, it looked at the people actually impacted, the seventy thousand people who live in the six water districts which immediately surround the Washington Works plant.
This is you think of it as a really huge living, breathing clinical trial where it all came about through litigation where there was a hunch that something was wrong because of these dead cattle. Within seven years, DuPont was being compelled to do this. The data that came out showed that number one, this chemical is bio-persistent, which DuPont clearly knew no later than 1979. They used that term. They knew it was bio-persistent. From their own employees, their studies on their own employees, they knew it was bio-persistent on the order of decades. That it would stay in your body for decades once it was introduced.
These scientists who look at it, the C8 science panel who looked at this, looked at and very carefully examined data and looked at the occurrences. It wasn’t simply, oh, there was a bunch of cancer cases in this one water district. It was a thorough and sifting examination of multiple lines of evidence. They came to the conclusion without any hesitation that yes, it’s linked to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, this ulcerative colitis among several other illnesses. This never would have happened but for the intrepid efforts of a person representing a cattle farmer right outside the DuPont plant in West Virginia.
Sam: Now, let me ask you this, Tim. Maybe this might be beyond your scope or just the general scope of knowledge at this point. If this C8 had this type of impact on people within, let’s say, about a twenty-five-mile radius of this factory that was leaching it, but this C8 had the ability to basically not get absorbed by dirt, that it travels through water it seems seamlessly and aggressively, in some respects.
How do we know this is where it’s limited to? Because my presumption is that these epidemiologists were not looking at the universe. They were looking within a specific distance from the factory. We don't know if a high concentration of C8 made it down one tributary and ended up in one other aquifer, somewhere, I don't know, fifty miles away, a hundred miles away. Do we have any sense of that?
Tim: Oh, yes, it’s sad. Here is what the scientists looked at what they call the Brookmar dataset, which is about sixty-nine thousand people. They really concentrated their efforts on studying the immediate surrounding areas. Recent research out of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Cincinnati is on the Ohio River, two hundred and eighty-five miles downstream from the Washington Works plant.
They studied young girls. They selected a population of young girls, preteen girls, for the sole purpose of seeing whether this C8 made its way into their bloodstream, two hundred and eighty-five miles downstream. What they found, this is research that came out of about a year ago, at the end of 2014. What they found was these young girls have these alarming high concentrations of serum C8. Here they are almost three hundred miles downstream.
The reason why this is so and it cannot be disputed by anyone is that this C8 toxin, it’s like a nano-poison. It takes so little to have a major impact, a major threat to human health. It’s such a little, dangerous little molecule that you have to measure it in parts per billion. What the science panel found was you could have twenty parts per billion of water.
If there is one part per billion of C8 in it, that is enough to cause these cancers and these other conditions. It doesn’t take much for that C8 to survive. One little magic bullet in a movie theater finds its way downstream. It concentrates in people downstream. It is a very fluid, very aggressive, very quickly moving nano-toxin that doesn’t find a place to rest until it finds a body.
Sam: Well, Tim O’Brien thanks for catching us up on this case.
Tim: Thanks for having me on, Sam.
What Did DuPont Know Before They Poisoned An Entire City with C8
Tom: According to recent scientific research, the chemical known as C8 is now in the blood of 99.7% of all Americans as well as in newborn human babies, breast milk, and umbilical cord blood. That's really bad news because C8 has been connected with, among other things, rectal cancer, testicular cancer, swelling of the liver, and birth defects. Where did all this C8 come from and why is it so potent? Who is apparently responsible for poisoning the American people? Joining me now for more on this disturbing story is Tim O'Brien, attorney at Levin Papantonio. Tim O'Brien, welcome to the program.
Tim: Thank you, Tom. It's so good to be here.
Tom: Thank you for joining us. 99% of the American people, Tim, have a chemical known to cause cancer in their bodies, this C8 stuff. How did this happen?
Tim: The C8 is such a tiny little poison, it's a nano-poison, that it has to be measured in parts per billion. It's like a bullet in a big theater. Because it's so toxic, it's so poisonous, the scientists measure it in parts per billion. The problem is, Tom, that nothing filters it out. It has an affinity for water.
In West Virginia, there is a DuPont plant called Washington Works, which for decades, discharged hundreds of thousands of pounds of C8 into the air and into the Ohio River. Once these nano-poisons get out into the river and into the air, they're not filtered by dirt, they're not filtered by anything. Instead, they move in the environment until they find a body.
That is why scientists have found this nano-poison, not only in the mamas and daddies who live in West Virginia and Ohio, but also as far north as the Arctic. It's in the blood of polar bears because it moves through the body, it moves through the food chain, and it sits there, once in the body, for up to 25 years because you cannot digest it, you cannot urinate it out, and you can't void it out. It's there for decades.
Tom: Whoa. Where did this stuff come from and what's it used for?
Tim: 3M, who's the actual manufacturer of it, sold it to DuPont. 3M, which manufactured the product and then sold it to DuPont for use in the Teflon process there in West Virginia, said some very important things to DuPont. Number one, it said, "This is a poison." Number two, it says, "This poison is known to cause cancer." Number three, it said, "Whatever you do with this poison, do not discharge it to surface water. Instead, you need to incinerate it." DuPont did none of that. It did not incinerate it and in fact, it rejected and refused to follow the very instructions of 3M in the Materials Safety Data Sheet and instead, they simply discharged it, not only into the Ohio River, but through the smoke stacks in Washington Works. Now, the C8 is all across the country and all across the globe.
Tom: C8 is what's referred to as a bio-persistent chemical. What does that mean and what are the consequences for public health?
Tim: Bio-persistence, think of it this way, it means it gets into your blood and it cannot leave. It is like an intruder in your home that DuPont put there. It's an intruder that's not only going to be there for one night. Who knows what that intruder is going to do? This intruder stays there for decades, for up to 25 years. You don't know what he's going to do, but DuPont knew about all the rap sheet about this intruder and the rap sheet, the scientists have shown, is testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid disease, among several other problems. Because that intruder is bio-persistent, it refuses to leave for up to 25 years.
Tom: Yeah, you said it's used in the manufacturing of Teflon. Does that mean that people who cook with Teflon pans or that people who drink out of paper cups that are lined with a Teflon derivative or eat frozen food that comes in these cardboard ... Correct me if I'm wrong. I was under the impression that pretty much anything where paper has been treated to make it waterproof involves something like Teflon. Does that all involve C8?
Tim: It certainly does. Teflon's certainly involved. Perhaps you've heard of a condition known as Teflon flu or Teflon fume fever. Teflon, when you cook it to a certain temperature, you cook it at a certain temperature, it will actually off-gas. Part of that off-gas includes C8. There is that route of exposure as well, sadly.
Tom: If you overheat a Teflon pan on the stove, it's going to vaporize C8 into the air of your kitchen and you're going to breathe it in your body?
Tim: That's correct. The EPA finally, after the litigation unfolded, the litigation, which my partner Mike Papantonio and I are involved in, after the litigation unfolded, the EPA finally worked out, much like it did with DDT back in the '70s, a process, whereby it said, "Look, industry, you've got to stop using the C8." The C8 was finally stopped. DuPont finally stopped using the C8, at least in the United States, about one year ago. The problem is, it's there. The goose is cooked. It's in these folks' bodies for decades to come because it's bio-persistent.
Tom: Yeah, and it's not just "these folks," it's you and me and everybody else. 99.7% of 300 million people is a hell of a lot of people.
Tim: It really is. I don't know if you remember the movie "Tron" where you see all these fast-moving particles, energy particles going through these mazes. That's what I think of C8. Because it's got such an affinity for water and because it cannot be filtered by dirt and it cannot be filtered by trees and bio-mass, it finds its way, it finds the path of least resistance through the water. The Ohio River connects to other rivers, which then connects to the oceans, which then wind their way up in the North Pole and all across this globe. We're all connected. We're all connected. Sadly, we are all connected back to Washington Works plant on the Ohio River in West Virginia.
Tom: Amazing. Tim O'Brien, keep up the great work. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.
Tim: Thank you so much for having me.
DuPont’s Disgusting C8 Legacy: Their Toxins Will Keep Poisoning For Generations
Farron Cousins: Chemical giant DuPont is still trying to merge with Monsanto, a move that would create one of the largest corporate criminal empires in the wold, but behind the merger headlines are larger issues facing DuPont. Specifically, their behaviors where it comes to poisoning communities. Yesterday I discussed this issue with attorney Tim O'Brien, so let's take a look at that interview.
So, Tim on this issue of C8 and Teflon with DuPont, which has been all over the news for the last several months. Mike Papantonio, who usually sits in this chair, helped handle one of the largest cases, one of the first cases against it back in October. Give us a little bit of just history of the issue of C8. It is Teflon but what happened with C8 specifically that sparked these lawsuits.
Tim O'Brien: Well, C8 has been used at a small plant, actually a huge plant with a small chemical known as C8 in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The problem is DuPont began using what was a known toxin, C8, to help with the manufacturing of teflon. The bigger problem began when DuPont saw that when it was testing this chemical, C8, on rats, and dogs, and monkeys, that these dogs, and monkeys, and rats were dying and getting all kinds of cancers. DuPont, instead of stopping the pollution of C8 into the Ohio River, increased the pollution of C8 into the Ohio River, and continued to increase the pollution of C8 into the Ohio River all the way up into the year 2000.
So, the pollution began no later than 1951, directly into the Ohio River and continued well past the year 2000, and people were drinking water that was being recharged through their aquifer, through their home faucets, which was contaminated with C8. Those birds are coming home to roost now, and that's why you're hearing so much about it now because people are popping up with cancer and all of these other different illnesses.
Farron Cousins: So, for 49 years DuPont is dumping this chemical that they knew to be toxic to humans and to other animals in the environment. They're pumping it into the Ohio River for 49 years, and now one of the issues that we're learning about is that once they stopped dumping that wasn't necessarily the end of the toxicity. We have this issue of a bio-persistence. Explain what bio-persistence is and how that relates to this C8 case.
Tim O'Brien: Right, and just so I'm clear the bio-persistence issue is huge. The pollution issue is huge. The pollution started slowing down in 2000 but they actually continued polluting until about 2014, but it peaked in the year 2000. To your question, the reason why the bio-persistence issue is huge, is so DuPont stopped polluting the river in 2013 and 2014, yay right? Well, wrong. The problem is because this chemical is so bio-persistent, meaning that it sticks to your blood, it stays in your blood. It is no urinated out. It is not defecated out. It stays there like a burglar in your home that you never invited in. It stays there for up to 25 years.
In all of that time, for about 70,000 people in the surrounding communities, all of that time that chemical is a burglar in your home that could cause cancer, could cause ulcerative colitis, could cause thyroid problems and that's going to continue on for decades even though DuPoint stopped putting this into the Ohio River a couple of years ago.
Farron Cousins: So, here we are, 2016. If somebody drank this water, with this chemical in it in 1991 it's still in their body today?
Tim O'Brien: Oh, absolutely. The point with this chemical is it is so toxic that you measure its presence in the parts per billion and now even in the parts per trillion. It is like a bullet, which is tiny, in a huge theater. So, think of it that way. A very toxic, very dangerous little chemical in a huge space and that's why scientists have to measure it in parts per billion and parts per trillion, because it is so dangerous. Now, folks who have drunk the water along these Ohio River water supply districts, they're situation with C8 in their bloodstream is set. They are going to have it for decades to come.
Farron Cousins: Did DuPont know, I mean we know that they knew C8 was toxic, did they know about the bio-persistence issue?
Tim O'Brien: Yes, and no later than 1979 3M, which was the actual manufacturer of C8, which was then sold to DuPont. C8 was, excuse me, 3M told DuPont in 1979, no later than 1979, "Hey, this chemical is bio-persistent," which is a buzzword. It's like toxin or carcinogen. It's synonymous with danger. Shortly there after, 3M then told DuPont, "Hey, so we got this bio-persistent compound that we're selling to you. Make sure that you dispose of it properly either by incinerating it or sending it to a sealed hazardous waste facility, but by all means, do not discharge it to the surface water." Well, what did DuPont do?
They didn't listen to the first two recommendations. They did not incinerate it. They did not treat of it properly in a hazardous waste facility. Instead they did the exact opposite of what 3M in the instructions to DuPont told them not to do. "Don't discharge to surface water." DuPont did exactly that. Over the 1990s hundreds of thousands of gallons, or of pounds of this toxin, were dumped into the Ohio River and ultimately made their way into folks homes all along the West Virginia and Ohio side of the Ohio River.
Farron Cousins: So, that was actually going to be my next question is, they're dumping this in the Ohio River from Parkersburg, West Virginia. How far did it spread? I mean, where is the danger area? If they were still dumping this up to 2014 we're looking at, I guess, probably another 25 years of people still being able to ingest this, are we not?
Tim O'Brien: Oh yes. It's actually in the core area is six key water districts that are within about a 15 to 20 mile radius of the Parkersburg plant, but the water from the Ohio River continues downstream from Parkersburg and it's actually been detected in water supply districts, for example, in Cincinnati, Ohio. What has to have been done, and what DuPont ultimately had to do after litigation began and after the EPA got wind of some documents revealing the extent of the pollution, revealing the extent of the bio-persistence and revealing the extent of the toxicity problem, DuPont had to go out and actually buy carbon filtration systems for these water supply districts.
The sad thing is, Farron, this carbon filtration system has been available for 50 years, so this [C8 00:07:35], even if DuPont were to use it, injudiciously use it, it never had to make its way into the water supply districts but it did and now these problems are being seen as you might expect they would be.
Farron Cousins: For DuPont, as we've seen with so many other corporations who engage in this kind of behavior, it would have cost a little bit of money upfront, like you said, to put in these filters to prevent these problems from happening or to properly dispose of the C8. Instead they take the easy route to save a few dollars here or there. So, hopefully the goal here is make sure, you know what DuPont? You screwed up. You could have paid the money back then, but instead today you're going to pay a lot more money because you're going to kill people. People are going to die. People, I'm sure, already have died as a result of the cancers and other problems that arise from C8. DuPont needs to pay up. It'd be even better if we could put some executives in prison for this kind of behavior because to me, this is no different necessarily than pre-meditated murder I guess, because they knew what it could do. They knew what it would do. They knew it was going to get into people, and they just said to hell with it.
Tim O'Brien: Yeah, the sad thing is and really the happy thing is, however, we're left with the greatest democracy tool there is, and that's a civil jury trial system. You raise an interesting point about a little bit of money could have gone a long way. So, Teflon is a billion dollar, remains a billion dollar portfolio of DuPont and now Chemours, the successor. The operating cost to run the Washington Works Plant, which made a whole bunch of different materials, not just Teflon, the operating costs per year were almost one billion dollars. To incinerate C8 out of existence, to just wipe it out, just put it through a burner and you don't have anything to discharge that has C8 in it, into the Ohio River, that would have cost a little less than 2 million dollars a year to actually operate the system and build the system.
DuPont chose not to do that. DuPont made a deliberate decision not to do that and instead used the Ohio River as its toilet, and the problem is that toilet is not being evacuated to a septic system which then properly takes care of whatever's being flushed. Instead it's making its way into the aquifers, which then make its way into the water supply districts, which then made its way into the glass of water that the mamas, and the daddies, and the children were all drinking for decades. Now, it's as if they're still drinking it because of this bio-persistence issue. It's going to be there for decades to come.
Farron Cousins: Well, and that's why people like you, people like Mike Papantonio are out there every day fighting, and we appreciate everything you do Tim. Thank you for telling us this story today. It's a disgusting story, something we hear far too often when we talk about these massive corporations, but thank you for all your work.
Tim O'Brien: It was my pleasure to have been here. Thank you.