How DuPont Concealed the Dangers of the New Teflon ToxinSharon Lerner
Mark Strynar and Andrew Lindstrom walked down the muddy bank of the Cape Fear River toward the water, sampling equipment in hand. It was the summer of 2012, and the scientists, who both work for the Environmental Protection Agency, were taking the first steps in what would be more than two years of detective work. The Cape Fear winds its way for over 200 miles through North Carolina before flowing into the Atlantic, but Strynar and Lindstrom were focused on a 20-mile stretch that runs from a boat dock outside Fayetteville south to the little town of Tar Heel. About halfway between the two points, on the western bank of the river, sits a large plant built by DuPont.
Fayetteville Works, as the sprawling site is called, previously manufactured C8, a chemical that DuPont used for more than 50 years to make Teflon and other products. After a massive class-action lawsuit revealed evidence of C8’s links to cancer and other diseases, DuPont agreed in a deal with the EPA to phase out its use of the chemical. But Strynar and Lindstrom were among many scientists who feared that DuPont and the other companies that used C8 might have swapped it out for similar compounds with similar problems. To see if they were right — and whether any of these replacements might have ended up in the river — they took water samples from the Cape Fear, some upstream the plant, others from points below its outflow.