Is DuPont Misleading Shareholders? Suspected Fine Falls Far Short of the Norm
(WASHINGTON, May 6) - The penalty DuPont will reportedly pay for covering up its pollution of newborn American babies with the cancer-causing Teflon chemical will likely be $15 million. This sum amounts to just 8 percent of the maximum allowable fine.
On April 28, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrative Law Judge Barbara A. Gunning granted EPA and DuPont until August 15 to formally announce their deal. DuPont's indestructible, toxic Teflon chemical is in the blood of over 95 percent of Americans. The full penalty amount for this count in EPA's lawsuit against DuPont is $183.8 million, an amount that dwarfs the $15 million DuPont has set aside [see details on fine amounts at www.ewg.org/issues/pfcs/tsca8e_teflon/index.php].
"Either DuPont is grossly misleading shareholders by shorting their liabilities for suppressing these Teflon studies by more than $163 million dollars, or they've rigged the EPA process to knock more than 90 percent off the potential fine," said Jane Houlihan, Environmental Working Group's (EWG) vice president for research. "Either way, something smells rotten here."
In 1981, two babies out of seven born to Teflon plant workers had birth defects along with the Teflon chemical in their blood. After EWG urged EPA to investigate DuPont's 20-year Teflon cover up, the Agency sued DuPont on four counts. For the suppressed study on the babies' blood alone, EPA could fine DuPont $183.8 million.
The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) reported that the day before EPA was to recommend a penalty amount to the judge, the parties reached an agreement in principle, for which DuPont has set aside $15 million.
DuPont officials admitted at their April 27 annual shareholders' meeting that the company has so far spent $123 million in legal, public relations and other consulting fees to defend their Teflon chemical from two separate federal investigations and one class action lawsuit.
"The Teflon chemical will never go away because it never breaks down; it will circulate through our air, water and blood forever, and it causes cancer and other serious health problems in lab animals," noted Houlihan. "Even now, EPA is waiting for DuPont to turn over hundreds of boxes of information about the Teflon chemical - what else will we learn about DuPont's toxic Teflon chemical?"
EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. The group's research on Teflon chemicals is available online at http://www.ewg.org/issues/PFCs/index.php