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Dutch chemical plant under investigation

Government to test residents living near former DuPont fluorochemicals facility

by Alex Scott
April 15, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 16

Credit: Shutterstock
Residents living in Dordrecht will be tested for exposure to PFOA.
People walking in street in Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
Credit: Shutterstock
Residents living in Dordrecht will be tested for exposure to PFOA.

Scrutiny of the potential health impact of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is extending into Europe. Dutch government officials are looking into past use of PFOA at a former DuPont plant near the city of Dordrecht, where the chemical was employed starting in 1970. Chemours inherited the plant when it spun off from DuPont last year.

The Dutch government has ordered blood tests on Dordrecht residents to determine if there is a link between health problems and PFOA, which was formerly used to make fluorochemicals such as the nonstick material Teflon. PFOA can build up in the body and adversely affect the liver, impair the development of a fetus, and raise the risk of cancer.

It is likely that local residents were chronically exposed to higher amounts of PFOA than is safe, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health & the Environment concluded in a recent report. “People living in the direct neighborhood of the DuPont/Chemours factory in Dordrecht have been exposed to PFOA by air for many years,” the institute said.

Dordrecht is Chemours’s largest production complex in Europe with more than 550 employees. The site also employs 350 DuPont staffers. Chemours continues to produce or blend fluorochemicals at the site.

Chemours faces a series of legal cases in the U.S. relating to PFOA exposure from its plant in Parkersburg, W.Va. The firm says it will “vigorously defend” itself against PFOA lawsuits.

In a separate case involving the Dordrecht plant, the Dutch TV program “EenVandaag” says it questioned 35 women who were involved in making spandex at the site. The program claims that 33 of them say they experienced fertility problems.

A website for “EenVandaag” cites two Dutch chemists who point to potential exposure to N,N-dimethylacetamide, a solvent used in the production of spandex yarn. The European Chemicals Agency classifies the solvent as a substance of very high concern that “may damage the unborn child.”

DuPont says it will not comment on individual cases but tells C&EN it listens to employee concerns and has scheduled a meeting with the Inspectorate SZW, a Dutch agency with oversight of workplace safety, to discuss issues around spandex production. DuPont sold the spandex plant in 2004; it closed down in 2006.



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