Last year, scientists found that “per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances,” or “forever chemicals,” might poison rainfall worldwide, making it unsafe for human consumption.
A study of previously secret industry records has shown that these chemical manufacturers knew about the hazards but suppressed that knowledge.
The investigation examined DuPont and 3M PFA papers.
Industry papers demonstrate that PFAS was “highly toxic when inhaled and moderately toxic when ingested” by 1970, forty years before the public health community.
“The industry used several strategies that have been shown commonly to tobacco, pharmaceutical, and other industries to influence science and regulation, most notably suppressing unfavorable research and distorting public discourse,” the researchers wrote in a study published in Annals of Global Health.
The New York Times magazine called Robert Bilott “the lawyer who became DuPont’s worst nightmare” after he successfully sued the business for PFA contamination and found these industry records.
Billot offered the records to the creators of “The Devil We Know,” who donated them to the University of California San Francisco Chemical Industry records Library.
Scientists found internal DuPont research showing chemical harm from animal and occupational tests. The corporation did not publish the research or disclose them to the US Environmental Protection Agency. The 1976 US Toxic Substances Control Act required reporting.
According to the researchers, industry officials specifically said that they “wanted this memo destroyed” on all of these “confidential” papers.
Information suppression timeline
The study report includes a history of what the industry knew about PFAs’ hazards while the public was in the dark.
- 1961: Rat organ growth
In 1961, DuPont recognized PFAs caused significant toxicity and organ growth in rats. Teflon materials “increase the size of the liver of rats at low doses,” according to a 1961 Polychemicals Research and Development Department study. The report advised against “contact with the skin” and handling the items with care.
- 1970: Lethal breathed or swallowed.
C8, a PFA, was “highly toxic” when breathed and somewhat harmful when swallowed, according to 1970 Haskell Laboratory memos. DuPont financed Haskell’s health studies.
- 1979: Multiple toxins
APFO, another PFA, had a variety of harmful consequences in animal studies, according to a 1979 DuPont report by Haskell laboratories. The chemical caused liver enlargement, ocular opacity, and ulceration during testing. Researchers gave two pups a single dosage, and they died two days later with symptoms of cellular damage.
- 1980: Defective children of workers
By 1980, PFAs had harmed the industry more directly. The DuPont and 3M employee relations departments distributed a pregnancy questionnaire that year.
Two of the eight pregnancies throughout the study had birth abnormalities.
After this assessment and the birth malformations, DuPont removed personnel from chemical-exposed regions. The corporation did not publicize research results or tell personnel.