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DowDuPont, Chemours named in GenX lawsuit

Replacement for troublesome fluoropolymer processing aid is the target of a class-action suit

by Marc S. Reisch
October 10, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 41

Credit: Shutterstock
Cape Fear River in Wilmington, N.C.

Lawyers have filed a class-action lawsuit charging Chemours and its former parent DowDuPont with contaminating drinking water in Wilmington, N.C., with the fluoropolymer processing aid GenX. The suit follows a furor in the spring over the chemical’s release from a Chemours plant.

Filed in Federal District Court in Wilmington on behalf of city resident Brent Nix, the suit seeks health monitoring for illnesses that may be caused by GenX and similar contaminants released into the Cape Fear River from Chemours’s plant 160 km upriver in Fayetteville, N.C. In addition, it seeks compensation for lost property value on behalf of Nix and as many as 100,000 additional plaintiffs should the court certify the case as a class-action suit.

According to the suit, “defendants have negligently and otherwise acted to cause toxic chemicals to be released from the Fayetteville Works Site, which then traveled to and contaminated and damaged the properties and household water supplies of plaintiff and class members, and exposed them to toxic chemicals.”

Chemours did not respond to a request for comment on the suit, which was filed by the Hannon Law Firm, a Denver-based toxic tort law practice, and the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, a Durham, N.C., personal injury law firm. DowDuPont referred press inquiries to Chemours.

GenX was developed as a safer alternative to the fluorinated surfactants used for years at the Fayetteville plant to make Teflon fluoropolymers. A six-carbon fluorinated compound, GenX replaced two eight-carbon molecules, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

According to the lawsuit, DowDuPont submitted documents to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that “indicate that GenX has been associated with increased risk of health effects in laboratory animal studies.”

The suit also claims that levels of GenX in Wilmington’s drinking water reached as high as 720 parts per trillion in June. The North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services set an upper limit of 140 ppt for GenX in drinking water in July. EPA guidelines call for no more than 70 ppt of PFOA or PFOS in drinking water.

Earlier this year, DowDuPont and Chemours paid $670 million to settle 3,550 lawsuits bought by Ohio and West Virginia residents who say they were sickened by drinking water contaminated with PFOA and PFOS released from Chemours’s Parkersburg, W.Va., plant.



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Richard Pendarvis, Ph.D. (Organic Chemistry) (October 11, 2017 8:43 PM)
Nobody seemed to be perturbed and there was no legal action over the wide spread of PFOA. It is in fact continuing. Its one thing to put Teflon in car engines but another to put in on cookware.
Domonkos Feher (October 12, 2017 1:46 PM)
PFOA exposure, especially from contaminated drinking water, is of great concern, and as the article states there were many recent lawsuits over it's use/release. However, PFOA is not Teflon, just like vinyl chloride is not PVC. As far as I know, cookware is not a significant source of PFOA, so I doubt that Teflon will/should be the focus of any lawsuits.
Matt Piggott (October 11, 2017 11:45 PM)
Hmmm, I'm pretty sure there is a mistake in the GenX structure.
Steve Ritter (October 12, 2017 10:40 AM)
Thanks, Matt. This has been fixed, there should not have been a minus on the NH3.
A. Anderson (October 12, 2017 3:34 PM)
EPA estimates that average water usage is about 100 gal/day/person. Assuming a 4 person household, the amount of GEN-X sent to each household is (400gal/day)(365day/year)(3780 g/gal)(720 X10^-12) = 0.397 g/year. Most of the water useage is for flushing the toilet. Do the plaintifs claim to be drinking all 400 gallons of water per day for every day of the year? Very little water is used for brushing teeth or cooking.
Geoff Daly (October 16, 2017 3:22 PM)
the problem is that all these PFC's whether they are 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Chain Carbon PFC's. They are all Bio-accumulative in the body and this is from the moment the polluted water is ingested; from In-Utero for up to 70 years based on the EPA study and HA's for the now Federal Limit of 70 PPT as a "Life-time Exposure". once it is young bodies the damage has started, just like Lead and Mercury
The C8 report has shown certain people are more susceptible than others to certain cancers and thyroid problems and trouble with certain internal organs.
All these Emerging Pollutants should be verified before coming to market by a full peer review and OSHA, FDA, CDC, EPA and Uiversties, thus GenX is just as bad as the prior matrix's based on the C-8 carbon chain.
A. Anderson (October 26, 2017 5:55 PM)
Shouldn't we expect hydrolysis to form 2-carbon acids? I wouldn't expect 2-carbon acids to bioaccumulate. What is the hydrolysis rate of Gen-X?
DRak (October 16, 2017 10:00 AM)
According to DuPont's material, GenX is not a specific chemical but a process. There are three chemicals involved with the process. "GenX technology includes a new processing aid, which is used only for fluoropolymer resin manufacturing." According to the RIVM (Dutch RIVM Letter report 2016-0174) there are three chemicals involved. I am not sure that the chemical should be labeled "GenX". The Dutch report calls it "FRD-902"

Marc Reisch (October 17, 2017 3:22 PM)
While DuPont does describe GenX as a process, it also designates the GenX flurorpolymer processing aid as the ammonium carboxylate salt of perfluoro-2-propoxypropanoic acid. Variants may be used in other GenX applications. The North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services specifically identified the GenX contaminant in the Cape Fear River as perfluoro-2-propoxypropanoic acid and the lawsuit described the contaminant in the same way and also more broadly as a family of contaminants that includes perfluoro-2-propoxypropanoic acid. The structure accompanying this article shows the ammonium salt version of GenX that C&EN has on record from DuPont.

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