November 16, 2003
12:32:21 AM EST
By PAMELA BRUST
PARKERSBURG - A segment on ABC's "20/20" news magazine
Friday alleging a connection between C8 and birth defects in
the children of two former Teflon division workers at the
DuPont Washington Works plant has once again focused attention
on the chemical. Ammonium perfluorooctanoate, also known
as C8, is a detergent-like
substance DuPont uses in manufacturing fluoropolymers like
Teflon. DuPont repeatedly has stated that in more than 50
years of use there have been no known adverse human health
effects associated with the chemical.
C8 is the subject of a lawsuit
pending in Wood County Circuit Court, originally filed in 2001
by Lubeck/Washington residents who allege their health was
damaged because of the presence of the chemical in local
DuPont officials released a statement in response to the
"Instead of relying on the well-documented facts and the
science regarding the safety of Teflon-branded products, ABC
has chosen to accept on face value certain allegations and
draw inappropriate inferences from documents and events that
are unrelated to the safety of Teflon," officials said in the
release. "In fact, ABC's '20/20' failed to provide any new
information that would question the safety of Teflon and
DuPont denied any allegation the firm acted improperly or
"There is no scientific basis to support the claims of two
former DuPont employees that the birth defects of their
children were related to C8. Our conclusions are
supported by extensive scientific and toxicological studies.
In addition, a 3M study monitoring pregnant employees exposed
to the chemical found no association between (C8) and birth defects,"
DuPont's statement said.
According to the ABC segment, out of eight pregnant women
working in the Teflon division of the Washington Works plant
in 1981, two gave birth to babies with birth defects.
DuPont did not report the birth defects. DuPont spokesmen
said on the show the firm was not trying to cover up the
situation, saying the information was not disclosed in a birth
defect study to the government earlier because there was
nothing to connect the defects with C8.
Sue Bailey's son had more than 30 surgeries to correct
birth defects he and his family blame on his mother's exposure
to the chemical. Bucky Bailey was born in January 1981 with
only one nostril and a deformed right eye, according to the
ABC program. Karen Robinson, the second former Washington
Works Teflon worker mentioned on the show, gave birth to a son
who had an eye defect. Her second child, a girl, was born with
kidney problems, according to the ABC report.
Charleston attorney Harry G. Deitzler, one of the
plaintiffs' lawyers in the local suit, said he isn't certain
what impact the ABC program will have on public opinion.
"But the public will certainly re-evaluate DuPont's public
relations campaign in which DuPont has steadfastly denied that
C8 has been linked with any
human health defects. There were eight women who gave birth
all the same year; the two referred to in the ('20/20') piece
means 25 percent that year suffered defects," he said.
Deitzler said it is his understanding from the news program
that defects noted in animals during earlier C8 research were similar to
the birth defects which manifested themselves in the human
babies. Deitzler said "20/20" contacted plaintiffs' attorneys
for an interview, but the attorneys declined.
Asked what effect the show might have on the pending
litigation, Deitzler said, "The news story and litigation are
entirely separate, and I don't really see one was directly
connected with the other. The '20/20' story covered the
documented health effects associated with C8 and the dangers there, but
it went further and talked about the adverse health impact of
cooking with Teflon."
Testing for the presence of C8 in local water supplies
repeatedly has been performed throughout the area. One of the
highest concentrations was found in Little Hocking.
Little Hocking resident Diana McGrew, who works at a local
plant (not DuPont), said she's been following the C8 issue carefully.
"I've looked at both sides, I have been following the news
reports, and I have looked at the environmental, health and
safety reports, and it just doesn't seem to be an issue for
me. Through the Community Responsible Care, there is testing
and monitoring done," McGrew said.
DuPont is a large employer in the area, and officials have
expressed concern over the pending lawsuit.
When asked what effect the "20/20" report might have, Wood
County Commissioner Bob Tebay, who resides in the Lubeck area,
said "It's this kind of publicity that could be disastrous. We
need to have some definitive, independent, scientific proof
before this kind of accusation is made.
"There have been a lot of studies already done and nothing
turned up. West Virginians are pretty sensible people, and I
think we'll get it all worked out. DuPont is a very
responsible neighbor, and if they have a problem, they will
straighten it out," Tebay said.