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4 sue DuPont over C8 contamination

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Four new lawsuits were filed Thursday against chemical giant DuPont Co. by Parkersburg-area residents who say they were made sick by drinking water contaminated with the toxic chemical C8 from the company's nearby plant.

In their separate lawsuits, residents Roger Dale Martin, Joanna Lynn Lowers, Earl Edgar Frum and Jerry Ray McClain allege that the contamination resulted in cancer and other illnesses that a panel of scientists concluded are linked to C8.

The cases are the first to be filed against DuPont by a team of lawyers, which, nearly a decade ago, forced the company to fund a massive study of C8's health effects and pay for new equipment to remove the chemical from local water supplies.

However, the lawsuits alleged that DuPont knew long before the completion last year of the C8 Science Panel's work that its chemical releases could be making residents sick, but tried to cover up evidence of those potential impacts.

"For at least several decades, DuPont has had knowledge and/or the means of knowledge that the releases and C8 were causally connected with and/or could increase the risk of causing damage to humans and animals, including knowledge of statistically significant findings showing a causal connection between exposure to C8 and physical injuries in humans and animals," the lawsuits allege.

The lawsuits allege that DuPont "withheld, misrepresented, and/or concealed information regarding the releases and C8 exposure" from the public "with the intention to mislead and/or defraud them into believing C8 exposure was not harmful, and to mislead and/or defraud them into continuing to purchase and consume drinking water contaminated with C8."

Dan Turner, a spokesman for DuPont, said the company had not had a chance to review the new lawsuits, but that the company believes "lawsuits such as these ignore family history and lifestyle choices as a primary cause of health issues and disease in specific individuals.

"DuPont will vigorously defend against any and all such lawsuits not based upon valid science," Turner said in a prepared statement.

The new lawsuits come a little more than three months after the three-person C8 Science Panel finished a six-year study of C8. Their work was funded by a class-action lawsuit settlement with DuPont and based, in part, on C8 testing and other health data from roughly 70,000 current and former residents -- one of the most extensive examinations ever of how a toxic chemical affects humans.

Science Panel members found a "probable link" between C8 exposure and a variety of illnesses: high cholesterol in humans, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and dangerous high blood pressure among pregnant women. In their studies, Science Panel members took a variety of other factors, such as family history and lifestyle choices, into account when determining if C8 is linked to disease.

Under the legal settlement, DuPont also must fund up to $235 million in future medical tests for area residents, to help provide early detection of diseases. The settlement also preserved the rights of any residents who believe C8 made them sick to file injury cases against the company.

Other injury cases already have been filed against DuPont over C8 exposure. The four filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Parkersburg and Columbus, though, are the first brought by the law firms of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler; Winter & Johnson; and Taft Stettinius & Hollister; the firms that brought the case that resulted in the Science Panel study.

Joining those firms in bringing the new cases was environmental attorney and activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the slain U.S. senator and presidential candidate.

C8 is another name for perfluorooctanoate acid, or PFOA. In West Virginia, DuPont has used C8 since the 1950s as a processing agent to make Teflon and other nonstick products, oil-resistant paper packaging and stain-resistant textiles.

DuPont and other companies have reduced their emissions and agreed on a voluntary phase-out of the chemical, but researchers are still concerned about a growing list of possible health effects and about the chemical's presence in consumer products, as well as continued pollution from waste disposal practices.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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