It began with one cattle farmer who lived next to a DuPont chemical company in Ohio whose livestock began developing severe physical disorders. The cattle that survived organ damage or failure had stringy tails, emaciation because they could not stomach food, giant lesions on their hides, malformed hooves, and most could not walk straight. Further investigation found the cattle were not the only ones suffering due to chemical exposure.
The New York Times Magazine
recently published an in-depth story on what they call the lawyer who proceeded to become “DuPont’s worst nightmare,” which reveals the massive amount of suffering the company caused Virginia and Ohio residents by contaminating local water sources. In an attempt to block the lawsuit from the cattle farmer, DuPont sent his attorney boxes of paperwork—so much paperwork, it took up rooms in the attorney’s downtown office. In DuPont’s attempt to smother the case in paperwork, it had accidentally released boxes of evidence against itself. The evidence would eventually show the company knew about the harmful effects of its chemicals, tried to cover it up and, to this day, refuses to take responsibility for poisoning whole communities and its employees.
DuPont Chemical Company Was Aware It Poisoned Both Ohio Employees and Residents
DuPont’s serious negligence dates back to 1951, where the company began purchasing a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to manufacture Teflon. This chemical comes with very specific disposal instructions. It must be incinerated or sent away to designated chemical waste facilities. Instead, DuPont would spend the next fifty years pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons into the Ohio River and more than 7,100 tons into unlined toxic sludge pits, where it seeped into the ground and contaminated local drinking water.
Worse, in the 1960s, DuPont began researching PFOA and its effects on animals and found it could cause organ damage and failure (sound familiar?) in rats and dogs. In the 1970s, a factory worker became ill while working near the company’s “digestion ponds” (or toxic sludge pits). DuPont ran tests on the worker and found high concentrations of PFOA in the worker’s blood. The company deliberately withheld the information from both its workers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the 1980s, DuPont learned that PFOA causes birth defects in rats. The company ran tests on children of pregnant employees and found two out of seven had birth defects. DuPont did not make the information public. In 1984, the company noted the dust from the factory chimneys contained more than three times the concentrated levels of PFOA than is acceptable. This dust was slowly poisoning factory employees and residents miles away from the factory.
In as recent as 2014, four employees died in an accident at another DuPont plant. The Chemical Safety Board found extreme failures in the company’s safety policies and procedures that constantly put its workers at risk. The record shows the Chemical Safety Board found if the company had just taken the proper safety precautions and followed the correct procedures, the toxic leak and the four deaths could have been prevented.
To This Day, DuPont Denies Exposing Employees and Residents to Chemicals
Just last year, DuPont created its own spinoff company that agreed to pay $235 million to monitor the health of the nearby residents and conveniently drove itself into debt. Many fear this spinoff company is being used to assume the debt and POAF liabilities associated with DuPont.
There are currently 3,535 plaintiffs, both residents and employees, who filed personal injury lawsuits due to diseases they contracted. DuPont is facing each and every claimant in court one by one, claiming PFOA is not harmful because it is not restricted by the EPA’s list of drinking water contaminants. This means the cases can each be drawn out for months, even years when you factor in appeals.
DuPont’s factories deliberately endangered both residents of surrounding areas and its own employees for decades. Given the deaths in 2015 from the toxic leak, it is obviously still doing so. The 3,535 lawsuits filed against the company has no bearing on how it runs its chemical plant. Federal programs like the EPA, Chemical Safety Board, OSHA and the Department of Labor need to stop twiddling their thumbs on this issue and find this company liable for the harm it has done to its workers and thousands of other citizens.
Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC has been assisting injured workers in the Ohio area since 1929.