There are many kitchen aids today that make cooking not only easier but more fun. There are many electrical appliances that replace the hard work associated with blending, mixing, grinding, chopping, etc. I’d like to focus on one innovation that gave us non-stick cookware.
It all began in 1945 when DuPont, renamed DowDuPont following their merger with Dow Chemicals in 2017, launched Teflon. Today Teflon is not just used in the production of non-stick cookware but also in a variety of other uses including waterproof clothing, furniture, food packaging, self-cleaning ovens as well as in aircraft and cars.
One of the key ingredients in DuPont’s Teflon was C8, a chemical also known as PFOS or PFOA which provided Teflon with the non-stick properties we all love. DuPont from the beginning of production of Teflon knew of the health hazards associated with C8.
DuPont were responsible for dumping the toxic chemical into local waterways close to their production facilities. The waste made its way into public drinking water, subsequently sickening thousands and ultimately killing many of them.
I’d like to share the story of Sue Bailey a former DuPont employee who gave birth to a son with severe deformities. William Bailey was born with half a nose, one nostril, a serrated eyelid and a keyhole pupil where his iris and retina were detached.
Sue’s job in DuPont brought her into direct contact with C8 in a large room with large cylinders filled with C8. The Teflon production process left behind a discharge of water and it was Sue’s responsibility to pump the waste directly into the local river.
Initially after the birth of William, DuPont attempted to blame Sue for the birth defects although they already knew that C8 could be harmful to human health and cause birth defects. When Sue returned to work after the birth of William, she found out that another fellow employee had given birth to a baby with similar birth defects.
Today we know that C8 in drinking water is linked to six different diseases including various cancers and in 2001 the residents of Ohio River Valley who had been exposed to C8 in their drinking water brought a class-action lawsuit against DuPont.
DuPont agreed to settle offering $343 million, but the residents refused to negotiate with DuPont individual payments. Instead they established a C8 Science Panel that studied the link between C8 in drinking water and human diseases.
Research has concluded that 99 per cent of Americans have the chemical in their blood. The C8 Science Panel managed to secure 70,000 people who were willing to provide samples of their blood for analysis. In 2012 the research results concluded that C8 in drinking water caused six different human diseases.
Thereafter more than 3,500 cases were filed against DuPont and the victories soon started to happen. The first case, a woman who was suffering from kidney cancer due to her exposure to C8, was awarded $1.6m in damages. By 2017 DuPont had agreed to settle thousands of lawsuits paying out $$671m.
Today DuPont has replaced C8 with a chemical called Gen-X and this new chemical is now appearing in American waterways. Studies have shown that when exposed to Gen-X rats develop tumours.
No end in sight it seems.