When it comes right down to it, private industry exists to make a profit. While it’s certainly true that many corporations work to better civilization, many others are happy destroying lives just to make a few dollars. Sometimes this takes the form of low wages and mandatory overtime instead of hiring new employees. Other times, it takes the form of poisoning thousands of people for almost fifty years.
If that seems oddly specific, that’s because it actually happened. DuPont started making Teflon products in 1953 and almost immediately began ignoring safety and health in order to make more money.
DuPont, Teflon, and the Ohio River
Perfluorooctanoic acid, or for easier pronunciation PFOA or C8 as DuPont refers to it, is a chemical that’s used in the production of Gore-Tex, Teflon, and other substances. It’s produced by 3M, and it was sold to DuPont with specific disposal instructions. According to 3M, it was to be treated as chemical waste or it was to be incinerated. There were no other options for safe disposal.
Not only did DuPont ignore the instructions, they did almost the exact opposite. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of C8 wound up being pumped into the Ohio River, but that’s not the shocking part. The shocking part is that a further 7,100 tons wound up being buried in a sludge pit. A sludge pit that was built without any lining at all, meaning they simply dumped C8 into a hole in the ground.
DuPont Attempts To Stall Legal Actions
Like many private corporations, DuPont had enough money to stall any consequences. They had their own scientists perform study after study, claiming that they were trying to find any potential dangers.
Their scientists found plenty of danger through multiple decades. They found that C8 posed a danger in 1961 when it was found to cause liver growth in rabbits, rats, and dogs. Twenty years later, lab results turned up birth defects in rats. Not satisfied (and no doubt still hoping to avoid consequences), DuPont demanded human testing. This ended how you’d expect, with two of the 8 women in the study giving birth to babies with eye defects.
By 1984 it was becoming obvious that C8 had gone well past their own property lines. It was in the ground and the water in the surrounding towns and cities. And in 1990, it was fully determined that C8 caused testicular and prostate cancer in men.
DuPont Finally Facing Consequences
Still attempting to stall, DuPont agreed to a third-party, seven-year study. It discovered the same thing as all the other studies, meaning DuPont can no longer avoid the consequences. While it’s small comfort to the families of those workers who’ve died, DuPont currently faces 3,534 multi-million dollar lawsuits.
DuPont was willing to fight against paying reparations for an act they knew was dangerous when they did it. The outcome was the death and suffering of thousands of people and families, all in the name of profit. So never presume that a corporation has your best interests at heart. They exist to make a profit and absolutely nothing else.