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C8, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid, is a toxic and cancerous chemical used to make Teflon. Since the 1950s, a DuPont plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia has been emitting C8 into the air and the Ohio River. According to recent lawsuits, DuPont knew C8 caused cancer in rats as early as 1980, yet covered it up. Now the company will be paying up to settle those suits.
DuPont and its subsidiary Chemours Co. have agreed to pony up $670 million in cash to settle around 3,550 personal injury claims arising from C8 leaks.
C8, Cancer, and Chemours
DuPont's own science panel concluded in 2012 that there was a "probable link" between C8 and six diseases: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and high cholesterol. It also found that Parkersburg-area residents who drank water from wells near the plant had almost eight times the average amount of C8 in their blood.
"You just can't do that to people," said Lawrence Moody, one of the plaintiffs and who was diagnosed with testicular cancer. "It took away having the option to protect my family, not knowing, 'Should you drink the water or not?'" Around 200 other plaintiffs were also diagnosed with cancer and are expected to get at least $1 million each from the settlement.
Chemours seemed pleased with the settlement, under which it does not need to admit any wrongdoing. The company was spun off from DuPont in 2015, many believe in order to limit DuPont's corporate liability during merger talks with Dow Chemical. "This agreement provides a sound resolution for area residents, Chemours, and the public," said David C. Shelton, general counsel for Chemours. "It settles all indemnification obligations between Chemours and DuPont for all of the approximately 3,500 claims in the Ohio multi-district litigation and allows us to move forward with a renewed focus on our customers, product innovation and application development."
While both sides agreed to the settlement, attorneys for the plaintiffs seemed less happy. According to the Columbus Dispatch, plaintiffs' counsel noted DuPont has a "staggering" $18.8 billion that can be converted to cash, and the company could recoup the $2 million it paid to another claimant in 42 minutes.