DuPont Co. and its spinoff Chemours Co. have been sued by Ohio for dumping a chemical used in Teflon, an action the state said went on for 60 years even though the company knew it was toxic to humans.
Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine is seeking to recover the costs of cleanup and damages for harm to the state’s residents, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in Washington County court.
The companies have already paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle thousands of personal injury lawsuits from exposure to PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, through drinking water around a West Virginia plant. But the new lawsuit shows liability can continue to grow for such pollutants, which don’t degrade and have been shown to accumulate in humans.
DuPont said Chemours would have to pay for any damages awarded. Chemours declined to immediately respond to a request for comment.
A 2017 study found that residents of the area have elevated levels of the chemical in their blood, according to the suit, which also cites health studies done on the thousands of personal injury plaintiffs that sued DuPont around the site. The studies found the chemical had probable links to diseases including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis and high cholesterol.
“DuPont intentionally concealed the dangers of PFOA from government entities and the public at large in order to protect its profits and avoid public responsibility for injuries,” according to the lawsuit, which cites releases from the Washington Works plant along the Ohio River.
Although Chemours agreed to cover DuPont for liability linked to the chemical when it was spun off, a more recent agreement would have them share liabilities from claims at the site, and Chemours has refused to accept liability for punitive damages, according to the complaint.
“DuPont is fully indemnified by Chemours,” Dan Turner, DuPont’s spokesman, said in an email. DuPont is now part of DowDuPont Inc. Chemours fell 3.6 percent to $46.49 at 2:30 p.m. in New York trading.
Both companies also face inquiries from federal regulators over a new chemical used at the same site, GenX, as well as around a plant in North Carolina.
3M Co., which once made PFOA and used a similar chemical PFOS in Scotchgard, faces similar complaints from Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. A trial in that case is scheduled to start next week.
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