A study published in Annals of Global Health in June found that PFAS manufacturers knew the chemicals, which are used in products like AFFF firefighting foam, were “highly toxic” by 1970, yet failed to publicly warn about this danger for 40 years.
The researchers reviewed previously secret chemical industry documents which had been archived at USCF’s Chemical Industry Documents Library. The researchers examined if and how PFAS manufacturers used corporate strategies to manipulate science. The researchers found that PFAS manufacturers influenced regulation and science by using strategies that the pharmaceutical and tobacco industries have used in the past. The researchers found that PFAS manufacturers suppressed unfavorable research and distorted public discourse.
Study Notes Its Implications For Makers Of Policy
The researchers noted that the study has many implications for those who make policies:
- The researchers note that, by delaying the disclosure of the risks associated with PFAS chemicals, PFAS manufacturers caused billions of dollars worth of environmental and health damages around the world
- The researchers noted that multiple countries are seeking legislative and legal action to slow or stop the production of PFAS, and that these efforts may be aided by the study
- The researchers suggest that research into the toxicity of chemicals should be a priority in terms of protecting the health of the public
- The researchers suggest that legal action against manufacturers of chemicals should disclose documents to make sure that accountability and transparency are maintained regarding chemical industries and chemical products
- The researchers suggest that environmental and public health policy makers should adopt precautionary chemical regulation principles
Study Notes Its Implications For Members Of The Public
The study examines DuPont and 3M documents which were previously secret. The study shows how PFAS manufacturers used similar tactics to the tobacco industry to delay the public becoming aware of PFAS chemicals’ toxicity, which led to PFAS regulations being delayed.
The researchers note that PFAS chemicals are ubiquitous in the environment and population. In fact, a recent study estimated that PFAS chemicals are in 45 percent of drinking water samples across the United States.
The researchers suggest that consumers being aware of the dangers of PFAS can lead to calls for products which are safer via demands for studies which are publicly available and demonstrate harm. The researchers also suggest that pressure by the public can influence legislators and convince them to pass chemical and environmental regulations to protect public health.
Study Discusses Public Knowledge Of PFAS Dangers
According to the researchers, scientific studies were beginning to find that PFAS chemicals could be toxic as early as 1959. A 1959 study found that people who smoked tobacco which was contaminated with the PFAS chemical PTFE experienced “influenza-like attacks.” The researchers also note that a 1978 study found that PTFE killed rats when it was heated to 572 degrees Fahrenheit.
The researchers mention a 1961 letter to the Canadian Medical Association Journal containing a case report of a worker who died after smoking a cigarette contaminated with PTFE. The letter states that the worker laid a cigarette, which was lighted, on a sheet of PTFE then picked it up and smoked it. The letter states that the worker eventually died, suffering edema in the lungs which was caused by inhalation of perfluoroisobutene gas. Perfluoroisobutene is considered a Schedule 2 substance by the Chemical Weapons Convention. The researchers note that DuPont disputed the report, calling it a rumor. The author of the letter later retracted the claim “with the co-operation of du Pont,” saying that the original source of the claim was now denying that anyone died from PTFE.
The researchers note that a 1961 review stated that plastics and resins such as PTFE “are not as exempt from health and toxicity problems as one might have supposed them to be.” The researchers also note that 1965 paper alleged that PTFE was causing “an epidemic of polymer fume fever.”
The researchers note that a 1973 study found that PTFE was lethal to parakeets and quail when heated to 536 degrees Fahrenheit. The researchers also note that a 1980 study found that workers at a 3M plant had elevated fluorochemical levels in their blood.
According to the researchers, animal studies started finding in the 1980s that PFAS chemicals could cause increased incidence of tumors, DNA damage, lipid metabolism alterations, and liver damage. In the late 1980s, according to the study, researchers proposed that PFAS could cause “irreversible” damage to the liver and that the PFAS chemical PFOA “may represent a severe health risk.”
By 1980, according to the study, science knew that PFOA accumulates in human blood and has a long half-life in people.
A 2003 study, according to the researchers, found that rats that were exposed to the PFAS chemical PFOS while they were pregnant gave birth to rats with harmful effects which were dose-dependent. The newborns in the high-dose group died within an hour and the newborns in a lower dose group died within 12 hours.
A 2003 study, according to the researchers, found that PFOS and PFOA caused an increase of hepatocellular adenomas.
Study Finds PFAS Manufacturers Used Several Strategies To Influence Science
The researchers found that PFAS manufacturers used multiple strategies to influence science, including:
Influencing Research Questions
The researchers found that researchers with PFAS manufacturers found abnormalities in PFAS-exposed workers, then proceeded to redesign and repeat studies until abnormalities weren’t found any more.
According to the researchers, a physician with DuPont noted that DuPont workers had “unusually high” levels of liver enzymes. The researchers allege that DuPont’s lab then used an alternate protocol to test liver enzyme levels in its workers, re-evaluated the concerning tests and declared the test results “normal” after using a different definition of “normal.” After doing so, the researchers claim that DuPont publicly stated that “there is no conclusive evidence of an occupationally related health problem among workers exposed to [PFOA].”
Suppressing Unfavorable Research
The researchers claim that internal studies from 1961 to 1994 show that DuPont knew that PFAS chemicals were toxic. The researchers claim this toxicity was demonstrated by occupational and animal studies which DuPont failed to publicly publish and failed to report to the EPA as required by law. The researchers allege these documents were marked “confidential” and that industry executives even stated regarding one of the documents that they wished for the document to be “destroyed.”
A 1961 DuPont report, according to the researchers, found that PTFE materials had “the ability to increase the size of the liver of rats at low doses.” The report advised that the materials be handled “with extreme care” and that people should avoid skin contact with the materials.
A 1970 “company confidential” DuPont document, according to the researchers, notes that PFOA is “highly toxic when inhaled and moderately toxic when ingested.”
A 1979 report for DuPont, according to the researchers, found that rats exposed to PFAS demonstrated liver enlargement as well as “corneal opacity and ulceration.” The researchers note that two dogs died two days after ingesting PFAS, and that the dogs’ increased plasma enzyme levels were “indicative of cellular damage.”
In 1980, according to the researchers, two out of eight pregnancies reported to DuPont as part of a questionnaire involved birth defects, and that a third child had PFAS in their cord blood. These results were not published, nor were they communicated to DuPont employees.
A 3M study, in 1981, according to the researchers, found that PFOA caused changes to the eyes of rat fetuses.
A 1988 internal DuPont report, according to the study, found that PFOA was moderately toxic when ingested, highly toxic when inhaled, caused liver problems in rats, and causes eye damage when eyes are exposed to it without washing.
A 1994 DuPont report, according to the study, found that the half-life of PFOA in humans was up to 3 years, and that a possible increase in prostate cancer was reported at a 3M facility which manufactured PFOA.
Distorting Public Discourse
According to the study, after internal surveys were completed regarding the birth outcomes and health of pregnant workers, DuPont chose to remove female employees from places where they were exposed to PFAS chemicals. Rather than publishing their findings or communicating the findings to employees, according to the study, DuPont chose to make it look like the change in policy was precautionary in nature instead of a response to findings of health problems.
DuPont, according to the researchers, in 1981, told its employees that “there is no known evidence that our employees have been exposed to [PFOA] levels that pose adverse health effects,” and that “we know of no evidence of birth defects caused by [PFOA] at DuPont.” This was despite the 1980 DuPont questionnaire finding that workers’ children ended up with birth defects.
A 2006 email from DuPont’s vice president Susan Stalneck, according to the study, was sent at a time where the media was increasingly paying attention to PFAS chemicals. The email, according to the study, stated “We need [the] EPA to quickly (like first thing tomorrow) say… consumer products sold under the Teflon brand are safe… and… to date, there are no human health effects known to be caused by PFOA.”
Changing Or Setting Scientific Standards
The researchers claim DuPont had evidence about human health risks of PFAS chemicals and concern about how much PFAS exposure to humans had occurred, and withheld this evidence by the EPA by claiming its own analysis into health hazards was sufficient.
In 1991, according to the researchers, DuPont disclosed that PFOA was found in the aquifier near its Washington Works factory, but insisted that an EPA notification wasn’t necessary since “no health hazards exist.”
In 2000, according to the researchers, it was disclosed by the Lubeck Public Service District in West Virginia that PFAS chemicals, including PFOA, were found in drinking water. The district stated that DuPont told them that its exposure guidelines were “protective of human health.”
Nadrich & Cohen is representing those who have developed cancer after being exposed to PFAS chemicals in drinking water or in AFFF firefighting foam.
We are contingency fee lawyers so we do not charge any fee unless and until we recover money to compensate you for your injuries.
Call us today for a free consultation, text us from this page or fill out the free case evaluation form on this page if you or a loved one developed cancer after being exposed to PFAS chemicals. We have been representing victims of exposure to hazardous chemicals for over 30 years and have recovered over $350,000,000 for our clients.