An environmental group and a former DuPont Co. chemist are arguing that the company suppressed evidence that a fluorinated chemical was potentially leaching from food packaging at levels above government limits, a charge the company strongly denies.
The charge from the Environmental Working Group also may shed more light on a question vexing government officials, industry scientists and environmental groups: How exactly did fluorinated compounds, used in everything from carpets to fluoropolymers like Teflon, get into the bodies of almost all Americans?
The latest EWG complaint suggests that telomers, small compounds used to coat food packaging and carpets, could be a larger source than previously thought, Richard Wiles, EWG senior vice president, said in a Nov. 16 phone news briefing.
The Environmental Protection Agency has brought legal action against DuPont for allegedly withholding perfluorooctanoic acid health data from regulators and could issue a fine next week.
EWG held a press event with former DuPont chemist Glenn Evers on Nov. 16, where Evers alleged DuPont knew as early as 1987 that one of its paper packaging coating chemicals, Zonyl RP, could contaminate food at more than three times the federal safety standard, but took no action.
DuPont said in a statement that FDA considers the chemical safe.
``The Food and Drug Administration has researched this very question using state-of-the-art methodology ... and the agency continues to approve these products as safe for consumer use,'' the company said.
Evers, who has sued DuPont for wrongful termination, said he believes the company pushed him out because of concerns he raised about the chemical.
``I tried everything I possibly could to work with management,'' he said. ``DuPont feels, for the profitability of their chemical, they have the right to pollute your blood and argue away any significance of harm.''
EWG said it obtained several internal DuPont documents, including a 1987 memo suggesting the chemicals leach into food at unsafe levels and asked FDA to investigate.