The DuPont Company
– technically, E.I. DuPont de Nemours –announced the United States approval of its planned merger with Dow Chemical to shareholders on June 15, 2017
. That merger of chemical titans, each with a legacy of toxic environmental impacts, was previously approved by the European Union and China, among others. The news has left many environmental activists and public health advocates concerned about both companies escaping from any liability for the decades of damage caused by their products and corporate practices. In the case of Dow, the 1984 Bhopal tragedy in India
killed up to 15,000 people following a chemical leak that exposed a half-million people to deadly methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, in what is the world’s worst and still-litigated industrial disaster in history.
Yet DuPont is accountable for what may be an even larger slow-motion disaster, because over decades the traces of its C8 product, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have been found in nearly every corner of the globe and every human alive. For decades, the company’s knowledge that a product introduced in 1938 was implicated in a range of human health impacts was hidden from view; the subsequent unraveling of that duplicity and years of lawsuits are well-documented. Less well known are the consequences of GenX, the chemical DuPont developed to replace C8 when it agreed to a phaseout.
DuPont introduced GenX in 2009. The chemical composition was touted as safer in several respects, including a much shorter biological clearance time than C8. The company also promised new “exposure control strategy” to prevent chemical leaks from the processing. Both the mitigation of environmental hazards and public health risks factored into West Virginia’s approval for DuPont to manufacture the chemical at Washington Works, a plant at ground zero of the company’s liability for toxic C8 exposure.
Yet in June 2017, no sooner than the DuPont-Dow merger success was announced, came word of high levels of GenX in waters on the North Carolina coast. It’s also been found in Ohio and West Virginia.