when thousands of people were poisoned over the years by the chemical in their Teflon pans

Dupont is one of the leading manufacturers of household products and materials, such as Teflon frying pans. Photo: Getty Creative (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The name of dupont It may not be recognizable at first glance to ordinary mortals even though we are talking about a powerful multinational company with a presence in dozens of countries. Perhaps it is easier for the collective imagination to identify one of his great ‘inventions’, which revolutionized the way of cooking in American homes starting in 1961. We are talking about Teflon pans, an inherent utensil created from the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) whose appearance on the markets, together with an exceptional marketing campaign, was a resounding sales success for Dupont. What the company never shared is that its great innovation is associated with the development of a endless diseases when the person is continuously exposed to PFOA. Diseases such as different types of cancer, as well as modifications of human genetic material that are transmitted from generation to generation.

The Dupont scandal came to light thanks to journalism, which is what happens when the guardians of the press take on the brave task of uncovering anonymous causes that deserve to be told (and when their bosses allow it). It was 2016 when the prestigious ‘The New York Times’ published a chronicle signed by Nathaniel Rich. In this, the journalist echoed the struggle of a Cincinnati American Lawyer Rob Bilottwhich, since 1998, tried to demonstrate that Dupont systematically and consciously poisoned the inhabitants of Parkersburg, a small town in West Virginia (United States), with the PFOA that it dumped into the waters and land of one of its factories there. located.

Also known as C8, this chemical compound from the military industry has been used by Dupont to manufacture materials such as Teflon. But also for the development of cleaning supplies, paints, fabrics, carpets, fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, stain-resistant surfaces… According to various investigations, the chemical is present in the blood of 99% of people Worldwide. Its massive use for numerous ‘domestic’ purposes would have gone unnoticed if not for the Parkersburg dump. What started with a few dead cows ended with a million-dollar lawsuit and thousands of sick people.

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Rob Bilott dedicated more than a decade of his life, which is said to be early but is not, to unmask the multinational and demonstrate that had poisoned about 3,500 inhabitants of this rural city, causing everything from kidney cancer, testicle cancer, infertility, colon diseases, malformations in fetuses, hypertension and thyroid problems. After the scandal, Dupont was forced to seal an agreement with the victims in 2017 $671.7 million. This is compensation for the irreversible damage to the health of his ‘eternal chemist’.

The lawyer’s court battle is collected in the movie ‘Dark waters’ (dark waters, in Spanish, but translated as ‘The price of truth’ in Latin America), directed by Todd Haynes and starring the actor Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway. A film that was widely endorsed by critics but did not obtain the recognition it deserves from the general public.

Rob Biliott and Mark Ruffallo at the London premiere of 'Dark Waters', the film that tells the story of the lawyer's fight against Dupont. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
Rob Biliott and Mark Ruffallo at the London premiere of ‘Dark Waters’, the film that tells the story of the lawyer’s fight against Dupont. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images) (Dave J Hogan via Getty Images)

Billot’s tireless fight against Dupont that dates back to the present day

Since then, Rob Bilott has become a champion of the cause, leading million-dollar lawsuits against Dupont. The number of people affected by its spills has not stopped increasing over time…”They have spent 24 years working on this case“, which is a problem for public health and was not recognized for decades,” the lawyer acknowledged in an interview with ‘La W’ in 2022. During this intervention, Billiot acknowledged that, although the multinational has stopped using PFOA to manufacture teflon, It only made a small, minimal molecular change. in its chemical composition that does not ensure that it is no longer dangerous. The concern remains.

The lawyer now seeks that the corresponding international health authorities ban Dupont and the rest of the big companies, like 3M, from using C8 to manufacture their products. A feat complicated by the power brought together by these multinational corporations and by the difficulty of demonstrating that, in fact, exposure to these materials (and not direct contact through a spill) is linked to the development of diseases. For the moment, the European Union has included PFOA on the list of “substances of high concern” as carcinogenic, toxic for reproduction and bioaccumulative.


Can cooking with Teflon pans be harmful to your health? An expert clarifies it

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