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Group wants EPA probe of DuPont, report on C8

By Tom Hrach,

An environmental action group is accusing DuPont of failing to reveal information to the government that shows a chemical used at the company's Washington, W.Va., Works plant caused birth defects in children born to women who work at the plant.

The Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.,-based organization, on Friday issued a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeking an investigation into charges DuPont violated the law by failing to report a study the group says shows the chemical caused birth defects.

The chemical, which has a trade name of C8, is used at the Washington Works plant across the Ohio River from western Washington County.

"They knew that (C8) was in one baby's blood and caused birth defects, yet failed to report it. That is a clear violation of federal law," said Richard Wiles, senior vice president of the group.

DuPont responded Friday by issuing a statement saying the group inaccurately represented the issue, and the company repeated its statement that the chemical has been use for 50 years with no known adverse human health affects.

The Friday allegation from the environmental group is the latest in the issue of whether C8 is harmful. The issue surfaced in public in the summer of 2001 when citizens of Lubeck, W.Va., filed a class- action suit against DuPont, saying the chemical found in its water system was harming people.

Further investigations showed the chemical was found in other area water systems including the Little Hocking system and in the air.

The environmental group has been following the issue, and it has completed its own assessment of the chemical. The group determined that the chemical is harmful to human health, and that it is much more prevalent than anyone ever suspected.

The environmental group claims one of the documents that is part of the class action lawsuit shows that DuPont was concerned enough about the chemical in 1981 to monitor eight pregnant women who worked at the plant.

According to the environmental group, seven of those women gave birth, and two of those children had a birth defect. One of those children was found to have C8 in its blood. A document that seems to confirm those findings is posted on the group's Web site.

DuPont, in a statement from its headquarters in Delaware, disputed the allegation.

"The information was not part of any study evaluating employee exposure or human health effects related to (C8)," said the statement from the company. "Although the information records one confirmed birth defect, there is no indication it was caused by exposure to (C8)."

DuPont says that in 1981 the 3M company, which made the chemical, showed the company a preliminary study indicating C8 may cause birth defects in laboratory animals. DuPont then removed women of child-bearing age from areas of the plant until more tests, and those new tests showed C8 did not cause birth defects.

The women were then allowed to return in March of 1982, to the area of the plant where C8 is present.

As for the allegation that DuPont broke the law by not reporting its findings to the U.S. EPA, the company says the law requires it to be reported if there is a substantial risk to health. DuPont says that the concern did not meet that standard.

There has been no response on the allegation from the U.S. EPA. The U.S. EPA is expected to announce on Monday the results of its risk assessment report about the toxicity of the chemical. At the same time, the U.S. EPA is expected to announce the next step in the process and answer the group's report as well.


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