Fluoride Action Network

West Virginia: DuPont reports elevated cancer rates in workers

Source: Marietta Times (Ohio) | June 11th, 2008 | By Michael Erb
Industry type: Perfluorinated chemicals

PARKERSBURG — DuPont Co. has discovered evidence of elevated cancer rates among employees at its Washington Works plant, according to records turned over to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Seven plant employees past and present have been found to have similar cases of carcinoid tumors, which are “rare, slow-growing tumors that usually appear both in the gastro-intestinal system and in the lungs,” said Morel Symons, supervisor of the DuPont epidemiology program. “They also are one of the few tumors that affect the appendix.”
DuPont reported the information to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2006 and updated the agency the following year. Though the findings were never released to the public by the plant, officials with DuPont said the information submitted to the EPA was considered public record and employees were repeatedly briefed on the findings and subsequent investigation.
“This wasn’t anything hidden,” said plant manager Bill Hopkins. “We have met with our employees here and are trying very hard to keep our employees informed.”
So far 20 cases, including the seven locally, have been identified at DuPont plants. Symons said the local cases are out of 5,000 employees past and present whose medical records have been reviewed.
Symons said a study will be conducted this summer to see whether any of the cases are linked to exposures or certain areas of the plant. He said additional cases may be identified as the study continues.
“The safety and the health of our employees is at the top of our list,” he said.
Hopkins said as of yet there is no clear link to any chemical at the plant or specific department. The first two Washington Works cases identified in 2006 were in a similar area of the plant, but cases identified later involved workers in different areas.
“The cases are pretty well dispersed through the plant at this point,” he said. “We have no reason to believe it is associated with C8 or any other chemical for that matter.”
C8, a suspected carcinogen, is the subject of intensive scientific research that started as part of a class-action lawsuit that claimed C8 releases from the Washington Works plant contaminated water supplies. About 69,000 people participated in the C8 Health Project, which is aimed at determining whether the chemical has any effect on humans. Results aren’t expected until 2011.
DuPont has used C8 for more than 50 years in making nonstick and stain- and water-resistant coatings for cookware, carpets and other products. DuPont plans to phase out use of C8 — ammonium perfluorooctanoate — by 2015.