EPA Fines Teflon Maker DuPont for Chemical Cover-Up
(WASHINGTON, Dec. 14) — Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will fine Teflon maker DuPont $16.5 million for two decades' worth of covering up company studies that showed it was polluting drinking water and newborn babies with an indestructible chemical that causes cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems in animals. The chemical is in the blood of over 95 percent of Americans.
After learning about the company cover-up from an Environmental Working Group (EWG) petition, EPA brought its lawsuit against DuPont in July 2004.
Today's fine is the largest administrative fine the EPA has ever levied under a weak toxic chemical law. However, as EWG noted, the $16.5 million fine is less than half of one percent of DuPont's after-tax annual profits from the Teflon product when averaged over the 20-year cover-up.
"What's the appropriate fine for a $25 billion company that for decades hid vital health information about a toxic chemical that now contaminates every man, woman and child in the United States? What's the proper dollar penalty for a pollutant that will never break down, and now finds its way into polar bears in the Arctic and human babies in their mothers' wombs? We're pretty sure it's not $16 million, even if that is a record amount under a federal law that everyone acknowledges is extremely weak," said EWG President Ken Cook.
"We commend EPA's professional staff for responding to EWG and taking DuPont to court for multiple violations of federal pollution laws involving the Teflon chemical. In an administration that habitually favors polluting industries, this fine, at the very least, should have prompted DuPont to apologize to the public for its actions. What we've heard instead is a company lawyer dismissing the settlement as nothing more than business as usual, with no expression of having failed its obligation as a corporate citizen," Cook said.
"That's the attitude, detailed in the company's internal documents, that got DuPont into this trouble to begin with, and clearly the fine hasn't changed the corporation's culture. That is a good reason not to trust that DuPont won't do this kind of thing again," Cook said.
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 petition to the EPA is available at http://www.ewg.org/issues/PFCs/tsca8e_teflon/index.php.
EWG's four years' worth of research on Teflon chemicals is available at http://www.ewg.org/issues/siteindex/issues.php?issueid=5014.