DuPont Corporation

DuPont Corporation

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Breaking ground on its first building in 1802 on Brandywine Creek near Wilmington, Delaware, as a gunpowder plant, the DuPont Corporation has grown into the second-largest chemical company in the world. At DuPont's first facilities, the corporation began to study advanced explosives.In 1902, after 100 years in business, the DuPont Corporation gained national recognition. With its new outlook, DuPont built many more research and development centers.Having led the polymer revolution by developing many highly successful materials such as neoprene, nylon, Corian, Teflon, Mylar, Kevlar and Tyvek; the company has gone on to create a multitude of chemically based products, including Lucite®, Nomex®, and Oncomuose®.


E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, better known as DuPont, developed from a family business, which manufactured gunpowder and explosives, to a multinational corporation that produces petroleum, natural gas, chemicals, synthetic fibers, polymers, and various other products. DuPont brand names — such as nylon, Teflon, Lycra, and Mylar — are part of the everyday vocabulary of people across the world. At the end of 1998 DuPont employed about 84,000 people in 70 countries and was the sixteenth largest industrial service corporation in the United States.

The founder of the company was the French nobleman with the impressive name of É leuth è re Ir é n é e du Pont de Nemours, who had studied with the famous chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. Du Pont came to the United States in 1797 and built a gunpowder factory on the Brandywine River in Delaware. His sons continued producing superior gunpowder after his death and also manufactured smokeless powder, dynamite, and nitroglycerine.

When competition in the early twentieth century became fierce, shareholders of the company voted to sell the company to the highest bidder. Alfred I. du Pont and two of his cousins, Pierre S. du Pont and Thomas Coleman, acquired the company in a leveraged buyout in order to keep it in the family. Pierre du Pont and Coleman, with Alfred in a lesser role as vice president, guided DuPont to unprecedented success, acquiring 54 other companies within three years. By 1905 DuPont held a 75 percent share of the U.S. gunpowder market and had become a major producer of explosives and one of the nation's largest corporations. With laboratories in New Jersey and Wilmington, Delaware, it was one of the first American companies to devote itself heavily to research. DuPont had also become the economic lifeblood of the state of Delaware.

Much of the company's success was due to its efficient structure, which designated different levels of management. In this sense, DuPont profoundly influenced the way U.S. corporations were run. Too much success, however, ultimately worked against the company. DuPont controlled so much of the explosives market that in 1912 the U.S. government ordered it to divest itself of a number of its assets. Adding to the company's troubles was a continuing feud between Alfred du Pont and his cousins, who eventually took away all of Alfred's real responsibilities within the organization.

DuPont continued to diversify in the early 1900s. Pierre Samuel du Pont began to buy General Motors (GM) stock in 1914, and he soon became embroiled in a struggle for power within that company. William C. Durant (1861 – 1947), founder of GM, fought to maintain control of the company, which he later lost. Pierre du Pont eventually acquired enough stock to be a dominant force within the company during the 1920s. This facilitated an economic relationship between General Motors and DuPont, and DuPont began selling to GM its Duco paint, antifreeze, and lead additive for gasoline.

DuPont also expanded into the textile business, manufacturing artificial fibers for use during World War I (1914 – 1918). When the company acquired rights from the French to manufacture cellophane in the 1920s, it began manufacturing rayon and developed a stronger version of the cord used in automobile tires. By far the most important of DuPont's creations was nylon, developed in 1930 by a research group headed by Wallace H. Carothers. DuPont's thermoplastics division spun off all kinds of products, including shower curtains, radio dials, eyeglass frames, and screwdriver handles.

In many ways, DuPont contributed to the American effort to win World War II (1939 – 1945). Through a partnership with the U.S. government, DuPont established an atomic bomb research center in Hanford, Washington. After the war women lined up to purchase DuPont-produced nylon stockings, which had been unavailable during wartime. Some of DuPont's other product innovations included neoprene, Lucite, Orlon, and Dacron, products that revolutionized the global consumer industry.

DuPont's string of successes came to a halt in the mid-1970s, when the demand for artificial fibers began to decline, and the costs of raw materials increased. DuPont's concentration on rebuilding its old business rather than branching out into new areas cost it dearly moreover, a recession in 1980 hurt the company. In that same year, however, the development of a product called Kevlar brought renewed success. Kevlar was a light, strong polymer with five times the tensile strength of steel. It could be used for such products at fire-resistant clothing, tire reinforcements, and bulletproof vests. Its cost, however, was high since it was derived from petroleum.

Mergers and acquisitions in the 1980s helped bring DuPont out of the recession. The most important of these was the acquisition of Conoco, which provided DuPont with oil at competitive prices. DuPont also involved itself in joint ventures with such companies as P.D. Magnetics, the Sankyo Company (pharmaceuticals), the Mitsubishi Rayon Company, and British Telecom (optoelectronic components). The company, moreover, began to branch out from stock chemicals and petrochemically based fibers into the life sciences, taking on such fields as genetic engineering and the manufacture of heart medications and the cancer-fighting drug interferon. In addition, DuPont took part in the development of pesticides and electronics parts supplies. By the mid-1980s DuPont owned about 90 businesses that sold a wide range of products.

In the late 1980s, however, management at Du-Pont decided that the company should begin concentrating on its most profitable areas — oil, healthcare, electronics, and specialty chemicals. While divisions such as pharmaceuticals and electronics were losing money, textiles continued to be its most successful product line, and the company began to publish a consumer products catalog featuring items made from its well-known fibers, such as Lycra, Zytel, and Supplex. The stretch polymer Lucre, favored by many fashion designers, became a big seller.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s DuPont paid particular attention to pollution control and cleanup, gradually replacing its environmentally harmful chlorofluorocarbons with safer chemicals, at a cost of $1 billion. The company also began to market safer pesticides and entered the growing recycling market.

With the exception of a temporary rise in profits for Conoco as a result of the Persian Gulf War (1991), most of DuPont's operations lost ground during the early 1990s. The company began restructuring, divesting itself of unprofitable components and reducing staff levels. DuPont also concentrated more on its chemicals and fibers divisions, acquiring polyester technology from ICI meanwhile, ICI bought out Du-Pont's acrylics business.

In the 1990s DuPont began to recover from the downturn of the 1980s. The company posted record profits in 1994 and 1996, and stock prices rose. New joint ventures in the areas of synthetic fibers, chemicals, and agricultural products continued to turn profits. In 1997 DuPont purchased a division of Ralston Purina that manufactured soy products, and also bought out Merck's share in the DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company. In an effort to concentrate on its core businesses, DuPont divested itself of Conoco in 1998. In that year DuPont had a net income of $4.7 billion. Nearing the close of the twentieth century, the company could safely boast that DuPont products had become inseparable from the everyday life of most societies in the world.

See also: E.I. du Pont, William C. Durant

Building an industrial giant

In 1800 Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours fled to the United States from revolutionary France along with his father and other family members. Éleuthère, encouraged by President Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826 served 1801–09), founded E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company, which manufactured black powder in a factory on the Brandywine River just north of Wilmington, Delaware. Production of black powder, the prevailing form of gunpowder until later in the nineteenth century when it was replaced with a smokeless form of gunpowder, began in 1802 at the Du Pont factory. The War of 1812 gave the company's fortunes an early boost.

Éleuthère's sudden death in late 1834 placed his son, Alfred Victor du Pont (1798–1856) in charge of the business until 1850. Upon encountering health problems, Alfred turned the business over to his brother Henry (1812–1889) in 1850. Henry proved a shrewd manager and long-term president, greatly increasing the efficiency of gunpowder production. The Du Pont company made large profits during the American Civil War. The business expanded to a new factory built in New Jersey, and the new plant was producing a ton of dynamite a day in 1880. By 1881 the Du Pont company had cornered 85 percent of the explosives market, establishing itself as an industry giant during a period of rapid industrial growth in the United States. However, Henry left the company president position in 1889. Eugene du Pont took over but proved to be a less dynamic leader under his leadership business began to slow.

Meanwhile, in October 1880 Lammot du Pont, the future Du Pont president, had been born in Wilmington, Delaware, home of the Du Pont dynasty. His father was also named Lammot, and his mother was Mary Belin du Pont. He had two older brothers, Pierre and Irénée. Young Lammot was largely raised by Pierre and Irénée after the death of their father in a nitroglycerin explosion in 1884. Like his older brothers, Lammot attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He graduated in 1901 with a degree in civil engineering and found work as a draftsman for a company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

DuPont's deadly deceit: The decades-long cover-up behind the "world's most slippery material"

By Sharon Kelly
Published January 4, 2016 10:00AM (EST)


This originally appeared on Earth Island Journal.

Almost two decades ago, Carla Bartlett, a then 41-year -old West Virginia secretary and mother of two, was first diagnosed with cancer – what her surgeon later labeled a “garden variety” type of kidney cancer.

“I was scared to death,” Bartlett, now 59, told an Ohio federal jury this fall during hearings in the first of more than 3,500 personal injury and wrongful death suits by West Virginia and Ohio residents against the chemical giant DuPont. “And all I could think of was not being there, not being able to be there for my family.” Bartlett’s tumor and part of her rib were removed in a surgery in 1997 that, she said, involved cutting her “virtually in half.” Though the cancer hasn’t recurred since, for Bartlett, the harm, both physical and emotional, has lingered. “It’s never out of my mind, because you worry constantly about it,” she said. “And then I have the reminder of the scar, every day, that, you know, this… this is… this was cancer this could come back.”

On October 7, after less than a day of deliberations, the jury found DuPont liable for Bartlett’s cancer, agreeing with the defendant that the company had for years negligently contaminated her drinking water supply in Tuppers Plain, Ohio with a toxic chemical formerly used to make its signature brand of nonstick coating: Teflon.

What makes the verdict remarkable is that unlike, say, mesothelioma – a form of lung cancer almost exclusively linked to asbestos exposure – the renal cell carcinoma that struck Bartlett is not usually considered the calling card of a specific carcinogen. So it was difficult for her doctors to definitively say what had first made Bartlett sick – it could have been virtually anything. The $1.6 million the jury awarded to Bartlett – the product of decades’ worth of legal battles that unearthed reams of secret DuPont studies and internal emails – came despite the extreme difficulty of connecting common ailments to a specific chemical under the current United States legal system.

Proving that DuPont was legally culpable for Bartlett’s kidney cancer required years of extraordinarily innovative lawyering – and at times some plain dumb luck. The very improbability of that verdict demonstrates much that is flawed about the way this country regulates potentially dangerous chemicals. With no mandatory safety testing for the vast majority of the tens of thousands of chemicals used daily in America, doctors and public health officials have little information to guide them as they seek to identify potential health hazards – including the chemical, called C8, that DuPont knowingly allowed to pollute Bartlett’s drinking water. Bartlett’s travails are also a cautionary tale about C8, which has become so pervasive today that it’s found in virtually every American’s blood.

“Part of a diagnosis is: Well, tell me what you’ve been around ,” one of Bartlett’s attorneys, Mike Papantonio, told the jury in opening arguments in the case. “ Well, I drank my water . That doesn’t sound like a problem. It was a problem”

Teflon was first created, as many miracle chemicals were, in a laboratory accident. In 1938, Roy J. Plunkett, a DuPont chemist, was experimenting with refrigerants when he discovered a white waxy material that seemed very slippery. The material turned out to be an inert fluorocarbon – Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) – that had superior nonstick properties. In 1945, the company patented the chemical and registered it under the trademark “Teflon,” touting it as “the most slippery material in existence.” By 1948 DuPont was producing about 2 million pounds of Teflon a year at its Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. For DuPont, Teflon, which was used to coat pots and pans, proved to be a gold mine, with sales peaking at roughly a billion dollars a year in 2004, according to the company’s SEC filings.

Starting around 1951, DuPont began using another laboratory-formed chemical known as Perfluorooctanoic (PFOA) acid, or C8 (so called because it contains eight carbon molecules), to smooth out the lumpiness of freshly manufactured Teflon. An unusually durable chemical, C8 first entered the world in 1947 and due to its nonstick and stain-resistant properties its use as a “surfactant” spread with extraordinary speed. The white, powdery compound, often said to look like Tide laundry detergent, would ultimately be used in hundreds of products including fast food wrappers, waterproof clothing, electrical cables, and pizza boxes. (DuPont used to purchase C8 from another chemical company called 3M until 2002, when the company phased it out. DuPont then started manufacturing C8 on its own at a factory in Fayetteville, North Carolina.)

The trouble was that the compound – which has since been linked to a variety of health risks including cancer, liver disease, developmental problems, and thyroid disease – escapes into the air easily. In fact, C8 was often shipped to factories pre-mixed with water to keep the dust from worker’s lungs.

Because it’s an extremely stable chemical, C8 does not biodegrade. Instead, it bioaccumulates, building up in people’s blood over time if they continue to drink water or breathe air laced with the substance. Due to its ubiquitous use, the chemical can now be found in trace amounts in the bloodstream of more than 98 percent of Americans, and even in umbilical cord blood and breast milk, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s also been found in the blood of seals, eagles, and dolphins around the world, including in animals living in a remote wildlife refuge in the middle of the North Pacific. The chemical is expected to stay in the environment for thousands of years.

Concerns about the hazards posed by Teflon and C8 began to garner public attention only about 15 years ago. By 2003, DuPont had dispersed almost 2.5 million pounds of C8 from its Washington Works plant into the mid-Ohio River Valley area, according to a peer-reviewed study. The company’s most egregious disposal practices occurred before US environmental laws were first written in the 1970s and included burying toxic waste in drums along the banks of the Ohio River and dropping barrels of it out into the open ocean (where it once caused a scandal when a local fisherman dredged a barrel up in his nets), and, in more recent decades, burying it in local “non-hazardous” landfills.

Now, information emerging from millions of pages of internal company reports reveals that several DuPont scientists and senior staff members had for many years either known, or at least suspected, that C8 was harmful. Yet DuPont continued to use the chemical, putting its own workers, local residents, and the American public at risk.

The documents show that signs of C8’s toxicity began to emerge very quickly as DuPont scaled up its Teflon production in the 1950s. The company funds its own safety-testing laboratory – the Haskell Laboratory of Industrial Toxicology – in part to screen workers for signs of illnesses that might be tied to DuPont products. In 1961, company lab tests linked C8 exposure to enlarged livers in rats and rabbits. DuPont scientists then conducted tests on humans, asking a group of volunteers to smoke cigarettes laced with C8. “Nine out of ten people in the highest-dosed group were noticeably ill for an average of nine hours with flu-like symptoms that included chills, backache, fever, and coughing,” the researchers noted.

“Concerns about the potential toxicity of C8 had been raised internally within DuPont by at least 1954, leading DuPont’s own researchers to conclude by at least 1961 that C8 was toxic and, according to DuPont’s own Toxicology Section Chief, should be ‘handled with extreme care,’” Bartlett’s February 2013 suit against DuPont alleged.

But it wasn’t until the 1970s that DuPont’s researchers began to understand that C8 was building up in the bloodstreams of workers, and soon after, they began to see troubling signs that the chemical could pose serious health risks. The stakes were high: The Washington Works plant where Teflon is manufactured was one of the biggest employers in the region. The plant currently employs more than 2,000 people – 3,000 if you include sub-contractors – in a sparsely populated Appalachian community alongside the Ohio River separating West Virginia from Ohio.

In 1981, the company ordered all female employees out of the Teflon division after two out of seven pregnant workers gave birth to children with birth defects. One of those children, Bucky Bailey, was born with just one nostril and other facial deformities that required many painful surgeries to fix.

“I’ve never, ever felt normal. You can’t feel normal when you walk outside and every single person looks at you. And it’s not that look of He’s famous or He’s rich,” he told ABC News in 2003. “It’s that look of He’s different. You can see it in their eyes.”

In 1984, DuPont began to secretively collect local tap water, asking employees to bring in jugs of water from their own homes, schools, and local businesses, and discovered that C8 was making its way into public drinking water supplies in both Ohio and West Virginia at potentially dangerous levels. Minutes recorded at a meeting at DuPont’s corporate headquarters in Delaware that year suggest a high level of concern regarding how this could affect the company’s image and bottom line. “Legal and medical will likely take the position of total elimination,” notes from the meeting read. The company executives present, however, concluded the available methods for cutting pollution were not “economically attractive.”

In the years following that meeting, instead of slashing its use of C8, DuPont escalated production, while keeping much of what it knew about the chemical’s dangers secret. The company’s Washington Works factory continued with its usual practice of dumping C8-laden sludge in unlined landfills, allowing it to enter the Ohio River, and pumping out C8-laced vapors from its smokestacks.

None of this would have come to light had it not been for a West Virginia cattle rancher named Wilbur Tennant who, along with four other members of his family, sued DuPont in 1998 claiming he had lost hundreds of head of cattle because of pollution from a landfill next to his farm. DuPont had purchased the patch of land, which included a creek that ran directly into the Ohio River, from Tennant in the 1980s, telling him that it would be used as a non-hazardous landfill.

But soon after the landfill got underway, the creek started to turn black and smelly. Sometimes there would be a layer of foam on the water. Within a few years, about 280 of Tennant’s cattle, which drank water from the creek, had died. When the Tennants cut open a cow to investigate the cause of its death, they discovered that its internal organs had turned bright, neon green, video footage recorded by the rancher shows. Tennant and his family members, too, suffered breathing difficulties and cancers.

Tennant’s attorney, Robert Bilott, forced DuPont to turn over tens of thousands of pages of internal company documents as part of the legal process. Buried in those materials was a single mention of a chemical Bilott had never heard of before: PFOA (C8). The chemical sounded similar to another one, called PFOS, which had just been pulled off the market by its maker 3M (which, if you recall, supplied C8 to DuPont for decades). So Bilott made another request to DuPont. This time he asked the company to turn over all documents related to C8.

“I did not immediately recognize the significance [of C8],” Bilott told Earth Island Journal , “but we came to.”

The trove of documents ultimately uncovered during the ensuing legal battles offered up incriminating evidence about the company’s decades-long cover-up. In addition to research findings, copies of internal emails and documents included in this cache were especially illuminating. One 2001 email describes a scientist warning that when airborne, C8 is so hard to deal with that “it might require the public to wear ‘gas masks.’”

Another, by DuPont’s in-house counsel, Bernard Reilly, shows that company officials planned to push regulators to allow the public to be exposed to higher levels of the chemical than DuPont itself had recommended. In an October 2001 email to his son, Reilly wrote:

“So far DuPont has been saying there are safe levels, we need to have an independent agency agree, we are hoping that it will agree to higher levels than we have been saying. If for no other reason than we are exceeding the levels we say we set as our own guideline, mostly because no one bothered to do air monitoring until now, and our water test has been completely inadequate.”

Reilly’s personal emails, written mostly to family members between late 1999 and mid-2001 using his work email address, give an unfiltered insight into the company’s legal efforts to cover up C8’s risks. In one August 2000 email he writes: “The shit is about to hit the fan in WV . The lawyer for the farmer finally realizes the surfactant issue. He is threatening to go to the press to embarrass us to pressure us to settle for big bucks. Fuck him.”

This information not only helped the Tennant case – which DuPont settled in 2001 for an undisclosed amount – it would eventually lead to one of the most significant class-action lawsuits in the history of environmental law (which culminated in the landmark October ruling in Carla Bartlett’s case). Sadly, Tennant didn’t live to see the ripple effect of his lawsuit. He died of cancer in 2009 at age 67.

By 2001, while still working on the Tennant case, Bilott came to realize that the C8 contamination wasn’t isolated to the Tennant property, but extended across a large swath of the mid-Ohio River Valley. The chemical had seeped into the water supply of at least six public water systems in West Virginia and Ohio. That year, Bilott filed a class action lawsuit against DuPont, Leach, et al. v E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. , on behalf of about 80,000 people in the six water districts. He also reported his findings to the US Environmental Protection Agency and sent along copies of some 900 pages of DuPont’s internal documents, after which the agency launched a “priority review” of C8.

“Under the terms of the settlement, the company wasn’t even obliged to pull C8 from the market… the best the agency could negotiate was a voluntary phase-out by 2015,” the watchdog organization Environmental Working Group says in its May 2015 report “Poisoned Legacy.”

The same year, DuPont settled the class-action suit filed by Bilott’s firm for over $100 million – plus another $235 million if research funded by the settlement turned up evidence that people might be getting sick. Under the settlement, DuPont promised to install filtration systems in contaminated water districts and put $70 million into a community health and education project. And, in a rather unusual move, the company also agreed to fund a multimillion dollar health study, overseen by independent, court-appointed scientists, to determine whether exposure to C8 had actually harmed people. Moreover, DuPont agreed that if the study did prove that the C8 had caused certain diseases, those who suffered from diseases connected to C8 would be entitled to sue individually for personal injury.

It’s not quite clear why DuPont agreed to the independent study. Perhaps it was the knowledge that most medical monitoring programs fail to attract enough participants, which usually makes it almost impossible to draw reliable inferences about disease clusters. But in this case, nearly 80 percent of the surrounding community in West Virginia and Ohio showed up at makeshift medical clinics in trailers around the region to have their blood drawn and a health care questionnaire completed. Community members were, more often than not, drawn by the $400 checks (pulled from the DuPont settlement) that the enterprising team of medical researchers offered to each man, woman, and child who participated.

“We have families of five dragging their three kids kicking and screaming, and the parents are saying, ‘Yes, you’re going to get stuck in the arms – that’s $2,000!’” one local resident told The Huffington Post.

The C8 science panel, which took seven years to complete its research, ultimately linked C8 exposure to six diseases: ulcerative colitis pregnancy-induced hypertension high cholesterol thyroid disease testicular cancer and kidney cancer. The panel’s findings, published in several peer-reviewed journals, were remarkable because they proved that the chemical pretty much affected the entire body, even at low exposure levels. The researchers concluded that C8 posed health threats at just 0.05 parts per billion in drinking water for people who drank that water for a single year. They found that the average C8 level in blood samples from the mid-Ohio Valley was 83 parts per billion. The average C8 level for those living closest to the plant – whose drinking water came from Ohio’s Little Hocking water district – was more than 224 parts per billion compared to 4 parts per billion for average Americans.

Once the connection between C8 exposure and the diseases was established, more than 3,500 Ohio Valley residents, including Carla Bartlett, filed personal injury cases against DuPont. Bartlett’s case was the first to go on trial this past September. The court’s verdict in her favor might just set the tone for the rest of cases that will come to trial.

Still, there are many who feel the company will keep trying to wriggle its way out of its responsibilities. (During Bartlett’s trial, for instance, DuPont attorneys argued that her cancer was triggered by her obesity rather than C8, even though, as per terms of the class action suit settlement, DuPont isn’t permitted to dispute the fact that C8 can cause the kind of cancer she endured.)

“I’ve been at it 16 years, if that tells you anything,” Joe Kiger, a local gym teacher and lead plaintiff in the original 2005 class action suit, told the Journal . “When this all started, I did not think it would get out of hand like it has, but we kept finding out more and more of what DuPont did, what the cover-ups were, them knowing full well that this stuff was toxic.” Kiger – who suffers from numerous kidney and liver problems and and had to have surgery following a heart attack in May – is a member of Keep Your Promises DuPont, a community-based organization working to hold the company accountable for its actions. “Our biggest faith and trust we have is in our utilities,” he said. “We flip that light switch on, we expect it to come on. We don’t think anything about it. You turn on your tap to get water, you expect that water to be clean and not have all these chemicals in it. I think now, people are starting to find out that someone has lied to them.”

To understand how C8 managed to remain in use for so long requires a look back at the history of chemical regulation in the US, and the role that DuPont itself played in crafting those laws.

Since the early 1970s, pressure had been growing to regulate the rising use of chemicals in almost every aspect of post-World War II American life. And few companies were as responsible for – or as dependent on – that expansion as DuPont.

In 1930, DuPont created Freon, making mass-market refrigerators and air conditioners possible for the first time. In 1935, a DuPont scientist invented nylon, a synthetic fiber that proved invaluable during World War II. Cellophane, Mylar, Tyvek, Rayon, Lycra – household names to this day – were all developed by DuPont in the past century. The company also made artificial fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides, plastics, and paints. “We have been proud to publicize the fact that more than 60 percent of our sales in 1950 resulted from products that were unknown, or at least were only laboratory curiosities, as recently as 1930,” a DuPont rep told a group of financiers in 1955. But as thousands of new chemical innovations entered the daily lives of Americans, pressure was also rising to find out what health risks many of them posed.

One of the first acts of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, after it was established in 1969, was to highlight the need for federal chemical controls – a system that would let regulators figure out which substances could pose public health risks before people got sick. “The Council’s study indicates the high-priority need for a program of testing and control of toxic substances,” it said as it released a 1971 report calling for new chemical rules. “We should no longer be limited to repairing damage after it has been done nor should we continue to allow the entire environment to be used as a laboratory.”

For several years, the Manufacturing Chemists Association, an industry trade group that counted DuPont as a core member (known as the American Chemistry Council today), managed to block any attempt to regulate the industry. But as a growing list of chemicals like PCBs, asbestos, and vinyl chloride began to be linked to illness, so did the demand to regulate them. Foreseeing the inevitable, many chemical companies decided that it would be better to be involved in the drafting process than to risk the type of bans that barred the use of the notorious pesticide DDT in 1972.

DuPont had a key seat at that drafting table.

Robert C. Eckhardt, a progressive Texas politician from a north Houston district packed with chemical and oil companies, is often described as the chief craftsman of the legislation that came out of this drafting process – the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which even today is the primary law regulating chemicals used in the US. First elected in 1966, Congressman Eckhardt was known for riding a bicycle to work at the Capitol – carrying his legislative files in a whisky case strapped to his bike – a habit that put him far ahead of the curve as an environmentalist and gained him support from early conservationists, especially after the 1970s’ energy crisis. During his career in DC, which ended in 1980, the Democratic congressman championed civil rights, fought to tax oil and gas companies, and helped ensure that core environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act and Superfund laws passed.

TSCA, as it stands today, was the product of an unlikely collaboration between the iconoclastic Eckhardt and DuPont.

Early meetings between Eckhardt and DuPont had gone so badly that Eckhardt stormed out of the room during a March 1976 negotiation. But as a draft chemical control bill passed the Senate, DuPont reluctantly returned to the table. One of the biggest sticking points was whether safety tests should be required before companies were allowed to put new chemicals on the market – an effort that the industry successfully blocked. “No mandatory testing was a huge compromise,” Rena Steinzor, University of Maryland School of Law professor and president of the Center for Progressive Reform, told the Journal .

The bill that “Bicycle Bob” Eckhardt ultimately produced was so packed with compromises that some of his early supporters opposed the law’s final version. “I mean, it was [called] the Heckert-Eckhardt bill,” Steven D. Jellinek, the EPA’s first-ever assistant administrator for toxic substances, told the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Oral History Project, referring to Richard Heckert, then a DuPont vice-president and the chair of the Manufacturing Chemists Association. “It was written by industry.”

Eckhardt’s good intentions might have been undermined by the fact that he was on the Senate Commerce Committee rather than the Environment and Public Works Committee. “The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was composed of people who believed in the EPA’s mission and knew a great deal about it,” Steinzor says. “The Senate Commerce Committee, like its name, was focused on other concerns and not knowledgeable about toxic chemicals.”

Under the toothless TSCA law that DuPont helped write, industrial chemicals – unlike pharmaceuticals or pesticides – do not have to be tested before they are put on the market. The law does require that the EPA keep a current list of all chemicals used commercially in the US, but it does not require that the chemicals be tested for environmental or human health impacts. Additionally, TSCA allows manufacturers to claim some information, including the chemical’s identity, as a trade secret.

Though the law also requires manufacturers give the EPA some information necessary to assess a new chemical’s safety, roughly 60,000 chemicals that were in use at the time TSCA was enacted were exempted from this rule. These chemicals include bisphenol A (BPA), formaldehyde and several flame retardants – all of which have since been found to present significant risks to human health and the environment. Today, there are more than 85,000 industrial chemicals in commercial use in the US – roughly 2,000 new chemicals are introduced every year in the US – but federal regulators have so far required only a tiny percentage of these to undergo any safety testing. You can literally count on one hand the number of chemicals that EPA has banned or widely restricted under TSCA: asbestos, PCBs, dioxin, CFCs, and hexavalent chromium (made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich ). That’s only five chemicals in nearly 40 years.

“In many ways, C8 is a poster child for the failures of US toxic chemical law,” says Bill Walker, one of the authors of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) report on C8. “Between 3M and DuPont you have a increasingly damning cover-up. And yet the law is so toothless that neither company was really concerned about being caught by the EPA.”

“But for the lawsuit, it is very likely that the EPA would be completely unaware of this chemical as well its toxicological profile,” says Ned McWilliams, another plaintiff’s attorney. “This lawsuit quite literally blew the whistle on this still unregulated chemical.”

DuPont, unsurprisingly, plans to appeal the court’s verdict. “The knowledge base around [C8], its environmental footprint, and its health profile has evolved,” company spokesperson Dan Turner told the Journal . “Over the same period, the chemical industry and its regulators have also learned a great deal about how to operate more safely, sustainably and to reduce emissions.” The company has, in the meantime, spun off its Teflon-related operations into another company, called Chemours, in a move that could limit the amount of compensation that plaintiffs can recover.

Over the past few years, DuPont, 3M, and other chemical firms have begun marketing C8-free Teflon, and recent studies show that the levels of C8 in most people’s blood are dropping. Unfortunately, the new chemicals that have replaced C8 are also raising concerns. “These next generation PFCs [perfluorinated chemicals] are used in greaseproof food wrappers, waterproof clothing and other products,” the EWG’s “Poisoned Legacy” report says. “Few have been tested for safety, and the names, composition and health effects of most are hidden as trade secrets.”

On a positive note, efforts to strengthen TSCA, which is the only major environmental law that has not been updated since it was first enacted, have gained steam in recent months. This fall, Congress was on the verge of passing TSCA reform measures. The House and the Senate introduced separate TSCA reform bills this year and while the House passed its bill (HR 2576) in June, and the Senate was yet vote on its bill (S 697) as this story went to press. Reforms proposed by these bills include speeding up the pace of the EPA’s chemical assessments, changing how the agency prioritizes chemicals for safety review, and amending TSCA’s definition of chemicals that may pose an “unreasonable risk” of harmful exposure.

Still, critics say these efforts fall short of what’s needed and may be at risk of repeating the errors of the past.

“Neither bill provides the EPA with the resources to act quickly enough on reviewing and regulating the use of chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious health problems,” Scott Faber, the Environmental Working Group’s senior vice-president for government affairs told the Journal . “Neither clears away the legal hurdles that prevent the EPA from banning chemicals like asbestos, which we already know are dangerous.” Faber is also concerned that the reforms might interfere with regulatory laws introduced by states and other local governments to make up for the lack of effective federal oversight of chemicals. (There are about 172 individual laws regulating chemicals in 35 US states, and another 100 or so similar bills have been under consideration in 28 states this year.)

In the end, it all comes down to the need for a strong political push that can override industry influence and introduce laws to regulate chemicals before they cause the kind of harm that C8 has wreaked. The history of C8, still unfolding, offers many lessons for those battles.


DuPont Chestnut Run Plaza is a 240-acre (0.97 km 2 ) research facility located on the northeast corner of Center and Faulkland Roads in Wilmington, Delaware. Construction started in 1952. It is a multi-business research facility dedicated to applied technology and customer service. It consists of nineteen buildings. DuPont business currently operating at the facility carry out research on fibers, imaging and printing, agrochemicals, polymers, and most recently hydrogen fuel-cells. Chestnut Run Plaza is a Certified Wildlife Habitat Council Site. [2]

The current Barley Mill Plaza was originally the site of the DuPont Airport. DuPont owned and operated the private airfield from 1924 until 1958. Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” made a landing there in 1927. Two du Pont family brothers Richard C. du Pont and Alexis Felix du Pont, Jr. purchased control of the All American Aviation Company in 1937 to obtain air mail technology which was further developed at the airfield. They grew that company to be Allegheny Airlines which is now known as US Airways.

The airport property was sold and then developed by Pearce Crompton as a multi-use office site. It was leased largely by the DuPont Company and eventually purchased by DuPont. It served as home for the management of many DuPont business units and DuPont's Legal Department. It was sold to a local developer and in 2010 it is currently the subject of a contentious rezoning dispute. [3] Barley Mill Plaza is a Certified Wildlife Habitat Council Site. [4]

This site was once held the private home of William du Pont. Built in the late 1800s, Pelleport was named after one of the family's ancestral homes in France. Pelleport passed to cousin, Eugene du Pont Sr. whose family occupied the property for 2 generations. The residence stood vacant for over 25 years until it was razed in 1954 to make room for the Eugene du Pont Convalescent Memorial Hospital.

Christiana Care's Eugene du Pont Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute at Pelleport offers a range of programs designed to promote health, prevent disease and minimize disability.

Delaware Route 52, also known as Kennett Pike, runs between Wilmington, Delaware and Pennsylvania where it merges into U.S. Route 1 near Longwood Gardens. It was built as a toll road between the years 1811 and 1813 at a cost of $30,000. The construction was authorized by a charter from the Delaware government issued to Christiana Hundred. In 1919, Pierre S. du Pont bought the road and discontinued toll collection. Dupont paved the road following the purchase and thus it is referred to as "The Other DuPont Highway", [5] the DuPont Highway being U.S. Route 13 in Delaware. It is rumored that Pierre S. duPont paved the road so that he and his friends and guests could travel more conveniently between his estate at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania and the DuPont headquarters in Wilmington. It was eventually sold back to the state. Delaware Routes 52 and 100 constitute the Brandywine Scenic Byway. [6]

Chateau Country Edit

Route 52 passes thru Delaware’s Chateau Country. [7] Many DuPont homes and estates are tucked away in the areas surrounding Greenville, Delaware and Centreville, Delaware. [8] Local residents have managed to preserve the rural character of Route 52 by controlling development. Twin Lakes Brewing Company in Greenville is on the farm of a DuPont heiress.

Winterthur Museum Edit

Between Greenville and Centerville, one passes Winterthur Museum and Country Estate. The museum in Winterthur, Delaware, houses one of the most important collections of Americana in the country. It was the former home of Henry Francis du Pont (1880–1969), a renowned collector of antiques and horticulturist.

The grounds are open to general admission and guided tours are available. The rolling countryside makes the annual Sunday Point-to-Point [9] steeplechases, the carriage, buggy and surrey parade, the running of the hounds, and elegant tailgating a rite of spring in northern Delaware.

Longwood Gardens Edit

Longwood Gardens is located just beyond the intersection of Pennsylvania Route 52 and U.S. Route 1. It consists of 1,050 acres (4.2 km 2 ) of gardens, woodlands, and meadows in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania in the Brandywine Creek Valley and is one of the premier botanical gardens in the United States.

The property that is now Longwood Gardens was originally purchased from William Penn in 1700 by a fellow Quaker named George Peirce. In 1798 Joshua and Samuel Peirce planted the first specimens of an arboretum and by 1850 they had amassed one of the finest collections of trees in the nation. Pierre S. du Pont purchased the property from the Peirce family in 1906 to save the arboretum from being sold for lumber. He made it his private estate, and from 1906 until the 1930s, du Pont added extensively to the property, the most notable additions being the beautiful conservatory, complete with a massive pipe organ, and an extensive system of fountains. Mr. Du Pont opened his estate to the public many days of the year during his occupancy. He founded the Longwood Foundation in 1937, and in 1946 the foundation was chartered with running Longwood Gardens for the general education and enjoyment of the public. In addition to general admission, the gardens offer many special events during the year. These include concerts, firework and fountain displays to music, and Christmas lights.

The DuPont Building Edit

Heading south on Route 52 from Route 141, one enters Wilmington, Delaware, home to the headquarters of the DuPont Company. The most famous DuPont structure in Wilmington is the DuPont Building. The DuPont Building occupies the block bound by 10th, 11th, Orange and Market streets. It was one of the first high-rises in Wilmington, looking out over Rodney Square. The original portion of the building was constructed in 1908 and housed the corporate offices of DuPont. In 1913 the building was expanded into a "U" by adding wings along 10th and 11th streets, the DuPont Playhouse was added, and a portion of the original 1908 section was converted into the Hotel duPont. The final addition to the building occurred in 1923. The building houses DuPont's headquarters, the DuPont Theatre (formerly the Playhouse), the Hotel duPont, a bank and a number of small shops and offices.

St. Joseph's on the Brandywine Catholic church was built in 1841 by DuPont company stonemasons while there was a slack period in building the DuPont powder works. The ground adjacent to the DuPont powder mills was donated by Charles I. du Pont and the cost of construction was financed largely through loans and gifts from the DuPont company and family.

For eighty years the parish had a close relationship with the nearby mills. Parishioner's pew rents were collected by the pastor through DuPont Company payroll deductions. When the mills closed, parishioners moved away and by the 1930s it appeared that the church might be closed as well. It was saved when people began to move to the north of Wilmington and to the Greenville, Delaware and Centerville, Delaware areas. It is the home parish of United States President Joe Biden and several officers of the DuPont Company.

John J. Raskob was hired in 1901 by Pierre S. du Pont as a personal secretary. In 1911, he became assistant treasurer of DuPont, in 1914 treasurer, and in 1918 vice-president for finance of both DuPont and General Motors. Raskob had been an early investor in General Motors and had engineered DuPont's ownership of 43% of GM, purchased from the financially troubled William C. Durant. While with GM, he led the creation of GMAC (now Ally Financial). He was the builder of the Empire State Building and the project was financed jointly with Pierre S. du Pont.

Like his fellow executives within DuPont, Raskob was a philanthropist. The Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities has its corporate offices at "Irisbrook," the former residence of Raskob's younger brother, William F. Raskob. The Foundation is for the purpose of contributing exclusively to religious, charitable, literary and educational activities that will aid the Roman Catholic Church and institutions and organizations that are identified with it on an international basis. The estate has been divided and is now occupied primarily by the facilities of The Automation Partnership, a company devoted to high throughput screening, genomics automation, informatics, robotic cell culture, liquid handling and compound storage and retrieval. The graceful home, Irisbrook, is located on the southwest corner of the estate.

Hagley Museum and Library [10] is located on 235 acres (0.95 km 2 ) along the Brandywine Creek. It is “where the du Pont story begins.” [11] Hagley is the site of the Eleutherian Mills gunpowder works founded by Eleuthère Irénée du Pont in 1802. It provides a glimpse at early American industry and includes restored mills, a workers' community, and the ancestral home and gardens of the du Pont family.

The Brandywine Creek flows south through the Brandywine Creek State Park, into Wilmington [12] where it flows through Brandywine Park near the city center. Along the way it flows past Hagley Museum and Library where it powered the powder mills of the early Dupont company. The flow of the creek is not substantial, though it is reliable, being fed by springs in Pennsylvania. There is a considerable drop in the elevation of the river in the vicinity of the powder works and water diverted by several dams into mill races provided sufficient power to operate the powder rolling mills. There are also dams below the powder works that provided power for mills located in Wilmington and much of the mill race network is still in good repair.

The land immediately across the Brandywine Creek from Eleutherian Mills was owned by DuPont for safety reasons. Development was precluded because the powder mills along the creek were designed in such a manner that if there were any to be any explosions (and there were), the blast would be directed at the substantial and heavily-wooded hillside across the creek. After the mills were closed, DuPont established the DuPont Experimental Station in this location. It was also the location of the original nine holes of the DuPont Country Club, but this golf course was pushed northeastward by the gradual expansion of the Experimental Station.

The DuPont Experimental Station is the largest research and development facility of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company and is home to some of the most important discoveries of the modern chemical industry. [13] [14] Thus, it is not only part of the history of the company, it is also playing an important role in DuPont's future. It was established in 1903 as an effort to move the DuPont Company from gunpowder and explosives into the new age of chemistry. As one of the first industrial research laboratories in the United States, the 150 acre (0.61 km2) campus-style Experimental Station serves as the primary research and development facility for DuPont. It is home to DuPont Central Research and most other business units of DuPont are also represented on site.

The Experimental Station is a Certified Wildlife Habitat Council Site. [15] In addition to ubiquitous pigeons and crows, animal species that are common on site include eastern cottontails, white-tailed deer, red-tailed hawks, groundhogs or woodchucks, eastern gray squirrels, and ruby-throated hummingbirds. Red-tailed hawks and red fox keep populations in control and a nearby colony of turkey vultures keep the grounds free of carrion.

The Nemours Mansion and Gardens is a 300-acre (1.2 km 2 ) country estate with jardin à la française formal gardens and a classical French mansion. This is all sealed away behind a stone fence topped with glass shards said to have been built to keep out the relatives.

The mansion resembles a Château and contains more than seventy rooms spread over five floors occupying nearly 47,000 sq ft (4,400 m 2 ). The estate is owned by the Nemours Foundation. Nemours was created by Alfred I. du Pont in 1909–1910, and named for a French town affiliated with his great-great-grandfather, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours. Carrère and Hastings designed home in the style of Louis XVI—Rococo French architecture. Guided tours are open to the public with reservations highly recommended and required for groups.

The Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children is a pediatric hospital located in Wilmington, Delaware. It is controlled by the Nemours Foundation, a non-profit organization created by philanthropist Alfred I. du Pont in 1936. With the conviction that it is the duty of everyone to do what is within his power to alleviate human suffering, he bestowed an estate valued at $40 million for the creation of a charitable corporation devoted primarily to providing health care services to children. The resulting Nemours Foundation was charged with the care and treatment of disabled children and the care of low-income seniors throughout the state of Delaware. Nemours has grown to be one of the nation’s largest children’s health systems caring for more than a quarter of a million children each year.

The DuPont Country Club is a recreational facility owned and operated by the Dupont Company. [16] The DuPont Country Club was incorporated in 1920, with a total of 600 members. The first “clubhouse” consisted of a two-story house and baseball diamond and grandstand. The original DuPont Course, a 9-hole layout with clay tees and sand greens was designed by Wilfrid Reid, and constructed in 1921. This original course was lost to the expansion of the DuPont Experimental Station and two new courses and a clubhouse were built on their present site. The clubhouse of the original course became the cafeteria of Experimental Station employees and the original pro-shop became the home of the DuPont employees' credit union.

Brantwyn Edit

The DuPont Country Club also includes the Dupont estate, Brantwyn, the childhood home of Pierre S. du Pont, IV. The home’s name is likely a derivative of the name Brandywine. The creek's name may be from an old Dutch word for brandy or gin, brandewijn, or from the name of an early mill owner, Andreas Brainwende or Brantwyn. [17]

Off the map is an extraordinary dairy barn, built in 1914 by Alfred I. DuPont to service Nemours. Adjacent is a glass-tiled milk-house. The facility was designed to be the most modern dairy barn in the United States at the time. The upper floor of the barn stored feed for the cattle. The milking parlor and calving area occupied the lower level. Cattle waiting to be milked were kept in a stucco-walled courtyard.

It is named after the Blue Ball Tavern, an inn and meeting house, that was once located near the property. A blue ball attached to a pole in front of the tavern served as a signal to stagecoach drivers to stop to pick up passengers, hence the name “Blue Ball Tavern.” The preserved and renovated Blue Ball Barn is the centerpiece of the new Alapocas Run State Park. The Blue Ball Barn is permanent home to the Delaware Folk Art Collection and there is an exhibit on the history of the barn.

The DuPont Building (center left) and the Nemours Building (right) in 2006.


Robert Bilott is a corporate defense lawyer from Cincinnati, Ohio working for law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister. Farmer Wilbur Tennant, who knows Robert's grandmother, asks Robert to investigate a number of unexplained animal deaths in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Tennant connects the deaths to the chemical manufacturing corporation DuPont, and gives Robert a large case of videotapes.

Robert visits the Tennants' farm, where he learns that 190 cows have died with unusual medical conditions such as bloated organs, blackened teeth, and tumors. DuPont attorney Phil Donnelly tells him he is not aware of the case but will help out in any way he can. Robert files a small suit so he can gain information through legal discovery of the chemicals dumped on the site. When he finds nothing useful in the EPA report, he realizes the chemicals might not be regulated by the EPA.

Robert confronts Phil at an industry event, leading to an angry exchange. DuPont sends Robert hundreds of boxes, hoping to bury the evidence. Robert finds numerous references to PFOA, a chemical with no references in any medical textbook. In the middle of the night, Robert's pregnant wife Sarah finds him tearing the carpet off the floors and going through their pans. He has discovered that PFOA is perfluorooctanoic acid, used to manufacture Teflon and used in American homes for nonstick pans. DuPont has been running tests of the effect of PFOA for decades, finding that it causes cancer and birth defects, but did not make the findings public. They dumped thousands of tons of toxic sludge in a landfill next to Tennant's farm. PFOA and similar compounds are forever chemicals, chemicals that do not leave the blood stream and slowly accumulate.

Tennant has been shunned by the community for suing their biggest employer. Robert encourages him to accept DuPont's settlement, but Tennant refuses, wanting justice. He tells Robert he and his wife both have cancer. Robert sends the DuPont evidence to the EPA and Department of Justice, among others. The EPA fines DuPont $16.5 million.

Robert, however, is not satisfied he realizes that the residents of Parkersburg will suffer the effects of the PFOA for the rest of their lives. He seeks medical monitoring for all residents of Parkersburg in one large class-action lawsuit. However, DuPont sends a letter notifying residents of the presence of PFOA, thus starting the statute of limitations and giving any further action only a month to begin.

Since PFOA is not regulated, Robert's team argues that the corporation is liable, as the amount in the water was higher than the one part per billion deemed safe by DuPont's internal documents. In court, DuPont claims that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has found that 150 parts per billion is safe. The locals protest and the story becomes national news. DuPont agrees to settle for benefits valued at over $300 million. As DuPont is only required to carry out medical monitoring if scientists prove that PFOA causes the ailments, an independent scientific review is set up. To get data for it, Robert's team tells the locals they can get their settlement money after donating blood. Nearly 70,000 people donate to the study.

Seven years pass with no result from the study. Tennant dies and Robert becomes destitute following several pay cuts, straining his marriage. When Supervising Partner Tom Terp tells him he needs to take another pay cut, Robert collapses, shaking. Doctors tell Sarah he suffered an ischemia, brought on by stress. Sarah tells Tom to stop making Robert feel like a failure, since he is doing something for people who need help.

The scientific panel contacts Robert and tells him that PFOA has been linked to two cancers and four other diseases. At dinner with his family, Robert is informed that DuPont is reneging on the entire agreement. Robert decides to take each defendant's case to DuPont, one at a time. He wins the first three multimillion-dollar settlements against DuPont, and DuPont settles the remaining more than 3,500 disease cases for $671 million.

    as Robert Bilott as Sarah Barlage Bilott as Tom Terp as Wilbur Tennant as Phil Donnelly as Darlene Kiger as Harry Deitzler as James Ross as Carla Pfeiffer as the voice of Dr. Karen Frank

On September 21, 2018, it was announced that Todd Haynes would direct the film, then titled Dry Run, from a script by Matthew Michael Carnahan, which would be produced by Participant Media along with Mark Ruffalo. [11] In November 2018, Ruffalo was officially set to star in the film. [12]

William 'Bucky' Bailey appears as himself in the film. His mother Sue worked on the Teflon line in Dupont's facility.

Other real life individuals affected by the environmental catastrophe in Parkersburg and who appear in the film, include: Darlene and Joe Kiger, Crystal Wheeler and Amy Brode (Wilbur's daughters), Jim Tennant (Wilbur's brother), Sarah and Rob Bilott. Teddy, Charlie and Tony Bilott (Sarah and Rob's sons) also appear in the film.

The film premiered at the Walter Reade Theater on November 12, 2019. [15] It entered limited release in the United States on November 22, 2019, before going wide on December 6, 2019. [16]

Box office Edit

Dark Waters has grossed more than $11.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $11.9 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of over $23.1 million. [2]

In its opening weekend the film made $102,656 from four theaters, a per-venue average of $25,651. [16] It expanded to 94 theaters the following weekend, making $630,000. [17] The film went wide in its third weekend of release, making $4.1 million from 2,012 theaters, and then made $1.9 million in its fourth weekend. [18] [19]

Critical response Edit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a "Fresh" approval rating of 89% based on 225 critic reviews, with an average rating of 7.33/10, and holds an approval rating from audiences of 95%. The website's critics consensus reads, "Dark Waters powerfully relays a real-life tale of infuriating malfeasance, honoring the victims and laying blame squarely at the feet of the perpetrators." [20] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." [21] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 3.5 out of 5 stars, with 60% saying they would definitely recommend it to a friend. [18]

Economic response Edit

The DowDuPont breakup earlier in the year spun off a new DuPont company that continued to lose value throughout the second half of 2019 as investors grew concerned about the potential liabilities related to the old DuPont's fluoropolymer products. When Dark Waters was released on November 12, DuPont's stock price dropped even further by 7.15 points from 72.18 to 65.03. While the portfolio is now a part of Chemours and the companies settled the public health lawsuits referenced in the film, Chemours sued DuPont, alleging that the former parent company saddled it with onerous liabilities when it failed to prepare financial projections in good faith. Chemours estimated that it would need to pay over $200 million to address environmental damages in North Carolina caused by another PFAS manufacturing facility in that region. (The prior settlement in both West Virginia and Ohio cost $671 million, which was split between the two companies.) [22]

DuPont CEO Marc Doyle, executives, and investors argued in internal statements that much of the movie was not based in fact and DuPont was misconstrued to fit the role of the enemy. According to Doyle, limited public statements were made because “in a situation like this, it just doesn’t do you much good to fight it out in the public eye. That would just drive more and more attention to it.” Executive chairman Ed Breen wouldn’t comment on whether DuPont would take legal action in response to the movie, but he did tell investors, “Obviously, we have a lot of legal folks [that] have been looking at this." [23] Many of the executives with whom this movie draws fault still work, or recently worked, at DuPont. 3M saw little to no change in its stock price the day of the film's release, but it was already experiencing a "difficult year" from "potential liabilities due to possible litigation over previous production of PFAS." [24] 3M's stock price closed at 256.01 on January 28, 2018, and by December 1, 2019, it had fallen to 168.27. [25]

DuPont’s Up-and-Down History Shaped Biden’s Views on Business

To see what President-elect Joe Biden thinks is wrong with the economy today and how he would try to fix it, look to his relationship with DuPont Co. For much of his life the company was the largest employer and philanthropist in his home state of Delaware, funding schools, libraries and theaters.

At age 29, Mr. Biden staffed his first Senate bid with DuPont employees, who opened a campaign office on the highway built by and named for the chemical giant. While bashing other big companies for tax avoidance, Mr. Biden singled out DuPont as a “conscientious corporation” for paying a higher rate. He celebrated his long-shot 1972 victory in the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel du Pont.

More than four decades later Mr. Biden, by then Barack Obama’s vice president, watched with concern as DuPont, struggling to boost profits, was targeted by an activist shareholder, sold the hotel, eased out its chief executive, merged with another company, split into three pieces and cut its Delaware workforce by one-fourth.

Mr. Biden seldom publicly discusses DuPont by name, but in private, according to aides, he regularly cites its restructuring and downsizing as Exhibit A of modern capitalism gone awry. He often bemoans what he believes to be corporate America’s prioritization of investors over workers and their communities.

His platform during this year’s campaign was thick with policies aimed at altering corporate behavior: a minimum corporate tax to curb tax avoidance, penalties for shipping jobs overseas, measures that make it easier for unions to form. “It’s way past time we put an end to this era of shareholder capitalism,” he declared in a July speech.

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The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare

Rob Bilott was a corporate defense attorney for eight years. Then he took on an environmental suit that would upend his entire career — and expose a brazen, decades-long history of chemical pollution.

Rob Bilott on land owned by the Tennants near Parkersburg, W.Va. Credit. Bryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

J ust months before Rob Bilott made partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister, he received a call on his direct line from a cattle farmer. The farmer, Wilbur Tennant of Parkersburg, W.Va., said that his cows were dying left and right. He believed that the DuPont chemical company, which until recently operated a site in Parkersburg that is more than 35 times the size of the Pentagon, was responsible. Tennant had tried to seek help locally, he said, but DuPont just about owned the entire town. He had been spurned not only by Parkersburg’s lawyers but also by its politicians, journalists, doctors and veterinarians. The farmer was angry and spoke in a heavy Appalachian accent. Bilott struggled to make sense of everything he was saying. He might have hung up had Tennant not blurted out the name of Bilott’s grandmother, Alma Holland White.

White had lived in Vienna, a northern suburb of Parkersburg, and as a child, Bilott often visited her in the summers. In 1973 she brought him to the cattle farm belonging to the Tennants’ neighbors, the Grahams, with whom White was friendly. Bilott spent the weekend riding horses, milking cows and watching Secretariat win the Triple Crown on TV. He was 7 years old. The visit to the Grahams’ farm was one of his happiest childhood memories.

When the Grahams heard in 1998 that Wilbur Tennant was looking for legal help, they remembered Bilott, White’s grandson, who had grown up to become an environmental lawyer. They did not understand, however, that Bilott was not the right kind of environmental lawyer. He did not represent plaintiffs or private citizens. Like the other 200 lawyers at Taft, a firm founded in 1885 and tied historically to the family of President William Howard Taft, Bilott worked almost exclusively for large corporate clients. His specialty was defending chemical companies. Several times, Bilott had even worked on cases with DuPont lawyers. Nevertheless, as a favor to his grandmother, he agreed to meet the farmer. ‘‘It just felt like the right thing to do,’’ he says today. ‘‘I felt a connection to those folks.’’

The connection was not obvious at their first meeting. About a week after his phone call, Tennant drove from Parkersburg with his wife to Taft’s headquarters in downtown Cincinnati. They hauled cardboard boxes containing videotapes, photographs and documents into the firm’s glassed-in reception area on the 18th floor, where they sat in gray midcentury-modern couches beneath an oil portrait of one of Taft’s founders. Tennant — burly and nearly six feet tall, wearing jeans, a plaid flannel shirt and a baseball cap — did not resemble a typical Taft client. ‘‘He didn’t show up at our offices looking like a bank vice president,’’ says Thomas Terp, a partner who was Bilott’s supervisor. ‘‘Let’s put it that way.’’

Terp joined Bilott for the meeting. Wilbur Tennant explained that he and his four siblings had run the cattle farm since their father abandoned them as children. They had seven cows then. Over the decades they steadily acquired land and cattle, until 200 cows roamed more than 600 hilly acres. The property would have been even larger had his brother Jim and Jim’s wife, Della, not sold 66 acres in the early ’80s to DuPont. The company wanted to use the plot for a landfill for waste from its factory near Parkersburg, called Washington Works, where Jim was employed as a laborer. Jim and Della did not want to sell, but Jim had been in poor health for years, mysterious ailments that doctors couldn’t diagnose, and they needed the money.

DuPont rechristened the plot Dry Run Landfill, named after the creek that ran through it. The same creek flowed down to a pasture where the Tennants grazed their cows. Not long after the sale, Wilbur told Bilott, the cattle began to act deranged. They had always been like pets to the Tennants. At the sight of a Tennant they would amble over, nuzzle and let themselves be milked. No longer. Now when they saw the farmers, they charged.

Wilbur fed a videotape into the VCR. The footage, shot on a camcorder, was grainy and intercut with static. Images jumped and repeated. The sound accelerated and slowed down. It had the quality of a horror movie. In the opening shot the camera pans across the creek. It takes in the surrounding forest, the white ash trees shedding their leaves and the rippling, shallow water, before pausing on what appears to be a snowbank at an elbow in the creek. The camera zooms in, revealing a mound of soapy froth.

‘‘I’ve taken two dead deer and two dead cattle off this ripple,’’ Tennant says in voice-over. ‘‘The blood run out of their noses and out their mouths. . They’re trying to cover this stuff up. But it’s not going to be covered up, because I’m going to bring it out in the open for people to see.’’

The video shows a large pipe running into the creek, discharging green water with bubbles on the surface. ‘‘This is what they expect a man’s cows to drink on his own property,’’ Wilbur says. ‘‘It’s about high time that someone in the state department of something-or-another got off their cans.’’

At one point, the video cuts to a skinny red cow standing in hay. Patches of its hair are missing, and its back is humped — a result, Wilbur speculates, of a kidney malfunction. Another blast of static is followed by a close-up of a dead black calf lying in the snow, its eye a brilliant, chemical blue. ‘‘One hundred fifty-three of these animals I’ve lost on this farm,’’ Wilbur says later in the video. ‘‘Every veterinarian that I’ve called in Parkersburg, they will not return my phone calls or they don’t want to get involved. Since they don’t want to get involved, I’ll have to dissect this thing myself. . I’m going to start at this head.’’

The video cuts to a calf’s bisected head. Close-ups follow of the calf’s blackened teeth (‘‘They say that’s due to high concentrations of fluoride in the water that they drink’’), its liver, heart, stomachs, kidneys and gall bladder. Each organ is sliced open, and Wilbur points out unusual discolorations — some dark, some green — and textures. ‘‘I don’t even like the looks of them,’’ he says. ‘‘It don’t look like anything I’ve been into before.’’

Bilott watched the video and looked at photographs for several hours. He saw cows with stringy tails, malformed hooves, giant lesions protruding from their hides and red, receded eyes cows suffering constant diarrhea, slobbering white slime the consistency of toothpaste, staggering bowlegged like drunks. Tennant always zoomed in on his cows’ eyes. ‘‘This cow’s done a lot of suffering,’’ he would say, as a blinking eye filled the screen.

‘‘This is bad,’’ Bilott said to himself. ‘‘There’s something really bad going on here.’’

Bilott decided right away to take the Tennant case. It was, he says again, ‘‘the right thing to do.’’ Bilott might have had the practiced look of a corporate lawyer — soft-spoken, milk-complected, conservatively attired — but the job had not come naturally to him. He did not have a typical Taft résumé. He had not attended college or law school in the Ivy League. His father was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, and Bilott spent most of his childhood moving among air bases near Albany Flint, Mich. Newport Beach, Calif. and Wiesbaden, West Germany. Bilott attended eight schools before graduating from Fairborn High, near Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. As a junior, he received a recruitment letter from a tiny liberal-arts school in Sarasota called the New College of Florida, which graded pass/fail and allowed students to design their own curriculums. Many of his friends there were idealistic, progressive — ideological misfits in Reagan’s America. He met with professors individually and came to value critical thinking. ‘‘I learned to question everything you read,’’ he said. ‘‘Don’t take anything at face value. Don’t care what other people say. I liked that philosophy.’’ Bilott studied political science and wrote his thesis about the rise and fall of Dayton. He hoped to become a city manager.

But his father, who late in life enrolled in law school, encouraged Bilott to do the same. Surprising his professors, he chose to attend law school at Ohio State, where his favorite course was environmental law. ‘‘It seemed like it would have real-world impact,’’ he said. ‘‘It was something you could do to make a difference.’’ When, after graduation, Taft made him an offer, his mentors and friends from New College were aghast. They didn’t understand how he could join a corporate firm. Bilott didn’t see it that way. He hadn’t really thought about the ethics of it, to be honest. ‘‘My family said that a big firm was where you’d get the most opportunities,’’ he said. ‘‘I knew nobody who had ever worked at a firm, nobody who knew anything about it. I just tried to get the best job I could. I don’t think I had any clue of what that involved.’’

At Taft, he asked to join Thomas Terp’s environmental team. Ten years earlier, Congress passed the legislation known as Superfund, which financed the emergency cleanup of hazardous-waste dumps. Superfund was a lucrative development for firms like Taft, creating an entire subfield within environmental law, one that required a deep understanding of the new regulations in order to guide negotiations among municipal agencies and numerous private parties. Terp’s team at Taft was a leader in the field.

As an associate, Bilott was asked to determine which companies contributed which toxins and hazardous wastes in what quantities to which sites. He took depositions from plant employees, perused public records and organized huge amounts of historical data. He became an expert on the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory framework, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act. He mastered the chemistry of the pollutants, despite the fact that chemistry had been his worst subject in high school. ‘‘I learned how these companies work, how the laws work, how you defend these claims,’’ he said. He became the consummate insider.

Bilott was proud of the work he did. The main part of his job, as he understood it, was to help clients comply with the new regulations. Many of his clients, including Thiokol and Bee Chemical, disposed of hazardous waste long before the practice became so tightly regulated. He worked long hours and knew few people in Cincinnati. A colleague on Taft’s environmental team, observing that he had little time for a social life, introduced him to a childhood friend named Sarah Barlage. She was a lawyer, too, at another downtown Cincinnati firm, where she de­fended corporations against worker’s-compensation claims. Bilott joined the two friends for lunch. Sarah doesn’t remember him speaking. ‘‘My first impression was that he was not like other guys,’’ she says. ‘‘I’m pretty chatty. He’s much quieter. We complemented each other.’’


They married in 1996. The first of their three sons was born two years later. He felt secure enough at Taft for Barlage to quit her job and raise their children full-time. Terp, his supervisor, recalls him as ‘‘a real standout lawyer: incredibly bright, energetic, tenacious and very, very thorough.’’ He was a model Taft lawyer. Then Wilbur Tennant came along.

The Tennant case put Taft in a highly unusual position. The law firm was in the business of representing chemical corporations, not suing them. The prospect of taking on DuPont ‘‘did cause us pause,’’ Terp concedes. ‘‘But it was not a terribly difficult decision for us. I’m a firm believer that our work on the plaintiff’s side makes us better defense lawyers.’’

Bilott sought help with the Tennant case from a West Virginia lawyer named Larry Winter. For many years, Winter was a partner at Spilman, Thomas & Battle — one of the firms that represented DuPont in West Virginia — though he had left Spilman to start a practice specializing in personal-injury cases. He was amazed that Bilott would sue DuPont while remaining at Taft.

‘‘His taking on the Tennant case,’’ Winter says, ‘‘given the type of practice Taft had, I found to be inconceivable.’’

Bilott, for his part, is reluctant to discuss his motivations for taking the case. The closest he came to elaborating was after being asked whether, having set out ‘‘to make a difference’’ in the world, he had any misgivings about the path his career had taken.

‘‘There was a reason why I was interested in helping out the Tennants,’’ he said after a pause. ‘‘It was a great opportunity to use my background for people who really needed it.’’

Bilott filed a federal suit against DuPont in the summer of 1999 in the Southern District of West Virginia. In response, DuPont’s in-house lawyer, Bernard Reilly, informed him that DuPont and the E.P.A. would commission a study of the property, conducted by three veterinarians chosen by DuPont and three chosen by the E.P.A. Their report did not find DuPont responsible for the cattle’s health problems. The culprit, instead, was poor husbandry: ‘‘poor nutrition, inadequate veterinary care and lack of fly control.’’ In other words, the Tennants didn’t know how to raise cattle if the cows were dying, it was their own fault.

This did not sit well with the Tennants, who began to suffer the consequences of antagonizing Parkersburg’s main employer. Lifelong friends ignored the Tennants on the streets of Parkersburg and walked out of restaurants when they entered. ‘‘I’m not allowed to talk to you,’’ they said, when confronted. Four different times, the Tennants changed churches.

Wilbur called the office nearly every day, but Bilott had little to tell him. He was doing for the Tennants what he would have done for any of his corporate clients — pulling permits, studying land deeds and requesting from DuPont all documentation related to Dry Run Landfill — but he could find no evidence that explained what was happening to the cattle. ‘‘We were getting frustrated,’’ Bilott said. ‘‘I couldn’t blame the Tennants for getting angry.’’

With the trial looming, Bilott stumbled upon a letter DuPont had sent to the E.P.A. that mentioned a substance at the landfill with a cryptic name: ‘‘PFOA.’’ In all his years working with chemical companies, Bilott had never heard of PFOA. It did not appear on any list of regulated materials, nor could he find it in Taft’s in-house library. The chemistry expert that he had retained for the case did, however, vaguely recall an article in a trade journal about a similar-sounding compound: PFOS, a soaplike agent used by the technology conglomerate 3M in the fabrication of Scotchgard.

Bilott hunted through his files for other references to PFOA, which he learned was short for perfluorooctanoic acid. But there was nothing. He asked DuPont to share all documentation related to the substance DuPont refused. In the fall of 2000, Bilott requested a court order to force them. Against DuPont’s protests, the order was granted. Dozens of boxes containing thousands of unorganized documents began to arrive at Taft’s headquarters: private internal correspondence, medical and health reports and confidential studies conducted by DuPont scientists. There were more than 110,000 pages in all, some half a century old. Bilott spent the next few months on the floor of his office, poring over the documents and arranging them in chronological order. He stopped answering his office phone. When people called his secretary, she explained that he was in the office but had not been able to reach the phone in time, because he was trapped on all sides by boxes.

‘‘I started seeing a story,’’ Bilott said. ‘‘I may have been the first one to actually go through them all. It became apparent what was going on: They had known for a long time that this stuff was bad.’’

Bilott is given to understatement. (‘‘To say that Rob Bilott is understated,’’ his colleague Edison Hill says, ‘‘is an understatement.’’) The story that Bilott began to see, cross-legged on his office floor, was astounding in its breadth, specificity and sheer brazenness. ‘‘I was shocked,’’ he said. That was another understatement. Bilott could not believe the scale of incriminating material that DuPont had sent him. The company appeared not to realize what it had handed over. ‘‘It was one of those things where you can’t believe you’re reading what you’re reading,’’ he said. ‘‘That it’s actually been put in writing. It was the kind of stuff you always heard about happening but you never thought you’d see written down.’’

The story began in 1951, when DuPont started purchasing PFOA (which the company refers to as C8) from 3M for use in the manufacturing of Teflon. 3M invented PFOA just four years earlier it was used to keep coatings like Teflon from clumping during production. Though PFOA was not classified by the government as a hazardous substance, 3M sent DuPont recommendations on how to dispose of it. It was to be incinerated or sent to chemical-waste facilities. DuPont’s own instructions specified that it was not to be flushed into surface water or sewers. But over the decades that followed, DuPont pumped hundreds of thousands of pounds of PFOA powder through the outfall pipes of the Parkersburg facility into the Ohio River. The company dumped 7,100 tons of PFOA-laced sludge into ‘‘digestion ponds’’: open, unlined pits on the Washington Works property, from which the chemical could seep straight into the ground. PFOA entered the local water table, which supplied drinking water to the communities of Parkersburg, Vienna, Little Hocking and Lubeck — more than 100,000 people in all.

Bilott learned from the documents that 3M and DuPont had been conducting secret medical studies on PFOA for more than four decades. In 1961, DuPont researchers found that the chemical could increase the size of the liver in rats and rabbits. A year later, they replicated these results in studies with dogs. PFOA’s peculiar chemical structure made it uncannily resistant to degradation. It also bound to plasma proteins in the blood, circulating through each organ in the body. In the 1970s, DuPont discovered that there were high concentrations of PFOA in the blood of factory workers at Washington Works. They did not tell the E.P.A. at the time. In 1981, 3M — which continued to serve as the supplier of PFOA to DuPont and other corporations — found that ingestion of the substance caused birth defects in rats. After 3M shared this information, DuPont tested the children of pregnant employees in their Teflon division. Of seven births, two had eye defects. DuPont did not make this information public.

In 1984, DuPont became aware that dust vented from factory chimneys settled well beyond the property line and, more disturbing, that PFOA was present in the local water supply. DuPont declined to disclose this finding. In 1991, DuPont scientists determined an internal safety limit for PFOA concentration in drinking water: one part per billion. The same year, DuPont found that water in one local district contained PFOA levels at three times that figure. Despite internal debate, it declined to make the information public.

(In a statement, DuPont claimed that it did volunteer health information about PFOA to the E.P.A. during those decades. When asked for evidence, it forwarded two letters written to West Virginian government agencies from 1982 and 1992, both of which cited internal studies that called into question links between PFOA exposure and human health problems.)

By the ’90s, Bilott discovered, DuPont understood that PFOA caused cancerous testicular, pancreatic and liver tumors in lab animals. One laboratory study suggested possible DNA damage from PFOA exposure, and a study of workers linked exposure with prostate cancer. DuPont at last hastened to develop an alternative to PFOA. An interoffice memo sent in 1993 announced that ‘‘for the first time, we have a viable candidate’’ that appeared to be less toxic and stayed in the body for a much shorter duration of time. Discussions were held at DuPont’s corporate headquarters to discuss switching to the new compound. DuPont decided against it. The risk was too great: Products manufactured with PFOA were an important part of DuPont’s business, worth $1 billion in annual profit.

But the crucial discovery for the Tennant case was this: By the late 1980s, as DuPont became increasingly concerned about the health effects of PFOA waste, it decided it needed to find a landfill for the toxic sludge dumped on company property. Fortunately they had recently bought 66 acres from a low-level employee at the Washington Works facility that would do perfectly.

By 1990, DuPont had dumped 7,100 tons of PFOA sludge into Dry Run Landfill. DuPont’s scientists understood that the landfill drained into the Tennants’ remaining property, and they tested the water in Dry Run Creek. It contained an extraordinarily high concentration of PFOA. DuPont did not tell this to the Tennants at the time, nor did it disclose the fact in the cattle report that it commissioned for the Tennant case a decade later — the report that blamed poor husbandry for the deaths of their cows. Bilott had what he needed.

In August 2000, Bilott called DuPont’s lawyer, Bernard Reilly, and explained that he knew what was going on. It was a brief conversation.

The Tennants settled. The firm would receive its contingency fee. The whole business might have ended right there. But Bilott was not satisfied.

DuPont was nothing like the corporations he had represented at Taft in the Superfund cases. ‘‘This was a completely different scenario. DuPont had for decades been actively trying to conceal their actions. They knew this stuff was harmful, and they put it in the water anyway. These were bad facts.’’ He had seen what the PFOA-tainted drinking water had done to cattle. What was it doing to the tens of thousands of people in the areas around Parkersburg who drank it daily from their taps? What did the insides of their heads look like? Were their internal organs green?

Bilott spent the following months drafting a public brief against DuPont. It was 972 pages long, including 136 attached exhibits. His colleagues call it ‘‘Rob’s Famous Letter.’’ ‘‘We have confirmed that the chemicals and pollutants released into the environment by DuPont at its Dry Run Landfill and other nearby DuPont-owned facilities may pose an imminent and substantial threat to health or the environment,’’ Bilott wrote. He demanded immediate action to regulate PFOA and provide clean water to those living near the factory. On March 6, 2001, he sent the letter to the director of every relevant regulatory authority, including Christie Whitman, administrator of the E.P.A., and the United States attorney general, John Ashcroft.

DuPont reacted quickly, requesting a gag order to block Bilott from providing the information he had discovered in the Tennant case to the government. A federal court denied it. Bilott sent his entire case file to the E.P.A.

‘‘DuPont freaked out when they realized that this guy was onto them,’’ says Ned McWilliams, a young trial lawyer who later joined Bilott’s legal team. ‘‘For a corporation to seek a gag order to prevent somebody from speaking to the E.P.A. is an extraordinary remedy. You could realize how bad that looks. They must have known that there was a small chance of winning. But they were so afraid that they were willing to roll the dice.’’

With the Famous Letter, Bilott crossed a line. Though nominally representing the Tennants — their settlement had yet to be concluded — Bilott spoke for the public, claiming extensive fraud and wrongdoing. He had become a threat not merely to DuPont but also to, in the words of one internal memo, ‘‘the entire fluoropolymers industry’’ — an industry responsible for the high-performance plastics used in many modern devices, including kitchen products, computer cables, implantable medical devices and bearings and seals used in cars and airplanes. PFOA was only one of more than 60,000 synthetic chemicals that companies produced and released into the world without regulatory oversight.

‘‘Rob’s letter lifted the curtain on a whole new theater,’’ says Harry Deitzler, a plaintiff’s lawyer in West Virginia who works with Bilott. ‘‘Before that letter, corporations could rely upon the public misperception that if a chemical was dangerous, it was regulated.’’ Under the 1976 Toxic Sub­stances Control Act, the E.P.A. can test chemicals only when it has been provided evidence of harm. This arrangement, which largely allows chemical companies to regulate themselves, is the reason that the E.P.A. has restricted only five chemicals, out of tens of thousands on the market, in the last 40 years.

It was especially damning to see these allegations against DuPont under the letterhead of one of the nation’s most prestigious corporate defense firms. ‘‘You can imagine what some of the other companies that Taft was representing — a Dow Chemical — might have thought of a Taft lawyer taking on DuPont,’’ Larry Winter says. ‘‘There was a threat that the firm would suffer financially.’’ When I asked Thomas Terp about Taft’s reaction to the Famous Letter, he replied, not quite convincingly, that he didn’t recall one. ‘‘Our partners,’’ he said, ‘‘are proud of the work that he has done.’’

Bilott, however, worried that corporations doing business with Taft might see things differently. ‘‘I’m not stupid, and the people around me aren’t stupid,’’ he said. ‘‘You can’t ignore the economic realities of the ways that business is run and the way clients think. I perceived that there were some ‘What the hell are you doing?’ responses.’’

The letter led, four years later, in 2005, to DuPont’s reaching a $16.5 million settlement with the E.P.A., which had accused the company of concealing its knowledge of PFOA’s toxicity and presence in the environment in violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act. (DuPont was not required to admit liability.) At the time, it was the largest civil administrative penalty the E.P.A. had obtained in its history, a statement that sounds more impressive than it is. The fine represented less than 2 percent of the profits earned by DuPont on PFOA that year.

Bilott never represented a corporate client again.

The obvious next step was to file a class-action lawsuit against DuPont on behalf of everyone whose water was tainted by PFOA. In all ways but one, Bilott himself was in the ideal position to file such a suit. He understood PFOA’s history as well as anyone inside DuPont did. He had the technical and regulatory expertise, as he had proved in the Tennant case. The only part that didn’t make sense was his firm: No Taft lawyer, to anyone’s recollection, had ever filed a class-action lawsuit.

It was one thing to pursue a sentimental case on behalf of a few West Virginia cattle farmers and even write a public letter to the E.P.A. But an industry-threatening class-action suit against one of the world’s largest chemical corporations was different. It might establish a precedent for suing corporations over unregulated sub­stances and imperil Taft’s bottom line. This point was made to Terp by Bernard Reilly, DuPont’s in-house lawyer, according to accounts from Bilott’s plaintiff’s-lawyer colleagues they say Reilly called to demand that Bilott back off the case. (Terp confirms that Reilly called him but will not disclose the content of the call Bilott and Reilly decline to speak about it, citing continuing litigation.) Given what Bilott had documented in his Famous Letter, Taft stood by its partner.

A lead plaintiff soon presented himself. Joseph Kiger, a night-school teacher in Parkersburg, called Bilott to ask for help. About nine months earlier, he received a peculiar note from the Lubeck water district. It arrived on Halloween day, enclosed in the monthly water bill. The note explained that an unregulated chemical named PFOA had been detected in the drinking water in ‘‘low concentrations,’’ but that it was not a health risk. Kiger had underlined statements that he found particularly baffling, like: ‘‘DuPont reports that it has toxicological and epidemiological data to support confidence that exposure guidelines established by DuPont are protective of human health.’’ The term ‘‘support confidence’’ seemed bizarre, as did ‘‘protective of human health,’’ not to mention the claim that DuPont’s own data supported its confidence in its own guidelines.

Still, Kiger might have forgotten about it had his wife, Darlene, not already spent much of her adulthood thinking about PFOA. Darlene’s first husband had been a chemist in DuPont’s PFOA lab. (Darlene asked that he not be named so that he wouldn’t be involved in the local politics around the case.) ‘‘When you worked at DuPont in this town,’’ Darlene says today, ‘‘you could have everything you wanted.’’ DuPont paid for his education, it secured him a mortgage and it paid him a generous salary. DuPont even gave him a free supply of PFOA, which, Darlene says, she used as soap in the family’s dishwasher and to clean the car. Sometimes her husband came home from work sick — fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting — after working in one of the PFOA storage tanks. It was a common occurrence at Washington Works. Darlene says the men at the plant called it ‘‘Teflon flu.’’

In 1976, after Darlene gave birth to their second child, her husband told her that he was not allowed to bring his work clothes home anymore. DuPont, he said, had found out that PFOA was causing health problems for women and birth defects in children. Darlene would remember this six years later when, at 36, she had to have an emergency hysterectomy and again eight years later, when she had a second surgery. When the strange letter from the water district arrived, Darlene says, ‘‘I kept thinking back to his clothing, to my hysterectomy. I asked myself, what does DuPont have to do with our drinking water?’’

Joe called the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (‘‘They treated me like I had the plague’’), the Parkersburg office of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (‘‘nothing to worry about’’), the water division (‘‘I got shut down’’), the local health department (‘‘just plain rude’’), even DuPont (‘‘I was fed the biggest line of [expletive] anybody could have been fed’’), before a scientist in the regional E.P.A. office finally took his call.

‘‘Good God, Joe,’’ the scientist said. ‘‘What the hell is that stuff doing in your water?’’ He sent Kiger information about the Tennant lawsuit. On the court papers Kiger kept seeing the same name: Robert Bilott, of Taft Stettinius & Hollister, in Cincinnati.

Bilott had anticipated suing on behalf of the one or two water districts closest to Washington Works. But tests revealed that six districts, as well as dozens of private wells, were tainted with levels of PFOA higher than DuPont’s own internal safety standard. In Little Hocking, the water tested positive for PFOA at seven times the limit. All told, 70,000 people were drinking poisoned water. Some had been doing so for decades.

But Bilott faced a vexing legal problem. PFOA was not a regulated substance. It appeared on no federal or state list of contaminants. How could Bilott claim that 70,000 people had been poisoned if the government didn’t recognize PFOA as a toxin — if PFOA, legally speaking, was no different than water itself? In 2001, it could not even be proved that exposure to PFOA in public drinking water caused health problems. There was scant information available about its impact on large populations. How could the class prove it had been harmed by PFOA when the health effects were largely unknown?

The best metric Bilott had to judge a safe exposure level was DuPont’s own internal limit of one part per billion. But when DuPont learned that Bilott was preparing a new lawsuit, it announced that it would re-evaluate that figure. As in the Tennant case, DuPont formed a team composed of its own scientists and scientists from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. It announced a new threshold: 150 parts per billion.

Bilott found the figure ‘‘mind-blowing.’’ The toxicologists he hired had settled upon a safety limit of 0.2 parts per billion. But West Virginia endorsed the new standard. Within two years, three lawyers regularly used by DuPont were hired by the state D.E.P. in leadership positions. One of them was placed in charge of the entire agency. ‘‘The way that transpired was just amazing to me,’’ Bilott says. ‘‘I suppose it wasn’t so amazing to my fellow counsel in West Virginia who know the system there. But it was to me.’’ The same DuPont lawyers tasked with writing the safety limit, Bilott said, had become the government regulators responsible for enforcing that limit.

Bilott devised a new legal strategy. A year earlier, West Virginia had become one of the first states to recognize what is called, in tort law, a medical-monitoring claim. A plaintiff needs to prove only that he or she has been exposed to a toxin. If the plaintiff wins, the defendant is required to fund regular medical tests. In these cases, should a plaintiff later become ill, he or she can sue retroactively for damages. For this reason, Bilott filed the class-action suit in August 2001 in state court, even though four of the six affected water districts lay across the Ohio border.

Meanwhile the E.P.A., drawing from Bilott’s research, began its own investigation into the toxicity of PFOA. In 2002, the agency released its initial findings: PFOA might pose human health risks not only to those drinking tainted water, but also to the general public — anyone, for instance, who cooked with Teflon pans. The E.P.A. was particularly alarmed to learn that PFOA had been detected in American blood banks, something 3M and DuPont had known as early as 1976. By 2003 the average concentration of PFOA in the blood of an adult American was four to five parts per billion. In 2000, 3M ceased production of PFOA. DuPont, rather than use an alternative compound, built a new factory in Fayetteville, N.C., to manufacture the substance for its own use.

Bilott’s strategy appeared to have worked. In September 2004, DuPont decided to settle the class-action suit. It agreed to install filtration plants in the six affected water districts if they wanted them and pay a cash award of $70 million. It would fund a scientific study to determine whether there was a ‘‘probable link’’ — a term that delicately avoided any declaration of causation — between PFOA and any diseases. If such links existed, DuPont would pay for medical monitoring of the affected group in perpetuity. Until the scientific study came back with its results, class members were forbidden from filing personal-injury suits against DuPont.

A reasonable expectation, at this point, was that the lawyers would move on. ‘‘In any other class action you’ve ever read about,’’ Deitzler says, ‘‘you get your 10 bucks in the mail, the lawyers get paid and the lawsuit goes away. That’s what we were supposed to do.’’ For three years, Bilott had worked for nothing, costing his firm a fortune. But now Taft received a windfall: Bilott and his team of West Virginian plaintiff lawyers received $21.7 million in fees from the settlement. ‘‘I think they were thinking, This guy did O.K.,’’ Deitzler says. ‘‘I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a raise.’’

Not only had Taft recouped its losses, but DuPont was providing clean water to the communities named in the suit. Bilott had every reason to walk away.

‘‘There was a gap in the data,’’ Bilott says. The company’s internal health studies, as damning as they were, were limited to factory employees. DuPont could argue — and had argued — that even if PFOA caused medical problems, it was only because factory workers had been exposed at exponentially higher levels than neighbors who drank tainted water. The gap allowed DuPont to claim that it had done nothing wrong.

Bilott represented 70,000 people who had been drinking PFOA-laced drinking water for decades. What if the settlement money could be used to test them? ‘‘Class members were concerned about three things,’’ Winter says. ‘‘One: Do I have C8 in my blood? Two: If I do, is it harmful? Three: If it’s harmful, what are the effects?’’ Bilott and his colleagues realized they could answer all three questions, if only they could test their clients. Now, they realized, there was a way to do so. After the settlement, the legal team pushed to make receipt of the cash award contingent on a full medical examination. The class voted in favor of this approach, and within months, nearly 70,000 West Virginians were trading their blood for a $400 check.

The team of epidemiologists was flooded with medical data, and there was nothing DuPont could do to stop it. In fact, it was another term of the settlement that DuPont would fund the research without limitation. The scientists, freed from the restraints of academic budgets and grants, had hit the epidemiological jackpot: an entire population’s personal data and infinite resources available to study them. The scientists designed 12 studies, including one that, using sophisticated environmental modeling technology, determined exactly how much PFOA each individual class member had ingested.

It was assured that the panel would return convincing results. But Bilott could not predict what those results would be. If no correlation was found between PFOA and illness, Bilott’s clients would be barred under the terms of the agreement from filing any personal-injury cases. Because of the sheer quantity of data provided by the community health study and the un­limited budget — it ultimately cost DuPont $33 million — the panel took longer than ex­pected to perform its analysis. Two years passed without any findings. Bilott waited. A third year passed. Then a fourth, a fifth, a sixth. Still the panel was quiet. Bilott waited.

It was not a peaceful wait. The pressure on Bilott at Taft had built since he initiated the class-action suit in 2001. The legal fees had granted him a reprieve, but as the years passed without resolution, and Bilott continued to spend the firm’s money and was unable to attract new clients, he found himself in an awkward position.

‘‘This case,’’ Winter says, ‘‘regardless of how hugely successful it ends up, will never in the Taft firm’s mind replace what they’ve lost in the way of legal business over the years.’’

The longer it took for the science panel to conduct its research, the more expensive the case became. Taft continued to pay consultants to interpret the new findings and relay them to the epidemiologists. Bilott counseled class members in West Virginia and Ohio and traveled frequently to Washington to attend meetings at the E.P.A., which was deciding whether to issue advisories about PFOA. ‘‘We were incurring a lot of expenses,’’ Bilott says. ‘‘If the scientific panel found no link with diseases, we’d have to eat it all.’’

Clients called Bilott to say that they had received diagnoses of cancer or that a family member had died. They wanted to know why it was taking so long. When would they get relief? Among those who called was Jim Tennant. Wilbur, who had cancer, had died of a heart attack. Two years later, Wilbur’s wife died of cancer. Bilott was tormented by ‘‘the thought that we still hadn’t been able to hold this company responsible for what they did in time for those people to see it.’’

Taft did not waver in its support of the case, but the strain began to show. ‘‘It was stressful,’’ Sarah Barlage, Bilott’s wife, says. ‘‘He was exasperated that it was lasting a long time. But his heels were so dug in. He’s extremely stubborn. Every day that went by with no movement gave him more drive to see it through. But in the back of our minds, we knew that there are cases that go on forever.’’

His colleagues on the case detected a change in Bilott. ‘‘I had the impression that it was extremely tough on him,’’ Winter says. ‘‘Rob had a young family, kids growing up, and he was under pressure from his firm. Rob is a private person. He didn’t complain. But he showed signs of being under enormous stress.’’

In 2010, Bilott began suffering strange attacks: His vision would blur, he couldn’t put on his socks, his arms felt numb. His doctors didn’t know what was happening. The attacks recurred periodically, bringing blurry vision, slurred speech and difficulty moving one side of his body. They struck suddenly, without warning, and their effects lasted days. The doctors asked whether he was under heightened stress at work. ‘‘Nothing different than normal,’’ Bilott told them. ‘‘Nothing it hadn’t been for years.’’

The doctors ultimately hit upon an effective medication. The episodes ceased and their symptoms, apart from an occasional tic, are under control, but he still doesn’t have a diagnosis.

‘‘It was stressful,’’ Bilott says, ‘‘not to know what the heck was going on.’’

In December 2011, after seven years, the scientists began to release their findings: there was a ‘‘probable link’’ between PFOA and kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, pre-eclampsia and ulcerative colitis.

‘‘There was relief,’’ Bilott says, understated nearly to the point of self-effacement. ‘‘We were able to deliver what we had promised to these folks seven years earlier. Especially since, for all those years, DuPont had been saying that we were lying, trying to scare and mislead people. Now we had a scientific answer.’’

As of October, 3,535 plaintiffs have filed personal-injury lawsuits against DuPont. The first member of this group to go to trial was a kidney-cancer survivor named Carla Bartlett. In October, Bartlett was awarded $1.6 million. DuPont plans to appeal. This may have ramifications well beyond Bartlett’s case: Hers is one of five ‘‘bellwether’’ cases that will be tried over the course of this year. After that, DuPont may choose to settle with every afflicted class member, using the outcome of the bellwether cases to determine settlement awards. Or DuPont can fight each suit individually, a tactic that tobacco companies have used to fight personal-injury lawsuits. At the rate of four trials a year, DuPont would continue to fight PFOA cases until the year 2890.

DuPont’s continuing refusal to accept responsibility is maddening to Bilott. ‘‘To think that you’ve negotiated in good faith a deal that everybody has abided by and worked on for seven years, you reach a point where certain things were to be resolved but then remain contested,’’ he says. ‘‘I think about the clients who have been waiting for this, many of whom are sick or have died while waiting. It’s infuriating.’’

As part of its agreement with the E.P.A., DuPont ceased production and use of PFOA in 2013. The five other companies in the world that produce PFOA are also phasing out production. DuPont, which is currently negotiating a merger with Dow Chemical, last year severed its chemical businesses: They have been spun off into a new corporation called Chemours. The new company has replaced PFOA with similar fluorine-based compounds designed to biodegrade more quickly — the alternative considered and then discarded by DuPont more than 20 years ago. Like PFOA, these new substances have not come under any regulation from the E.P.A. When asked about the safety of the new chemicals, Chemours replied in a statement: ‘‘A significant body of data demonstrates that these alternative chemistries can be used safely.’’

Last May, 200 scientists from a variety of disciplines signed the Madrid Statement, which expresses concern about the production of all fluorochemicals, or PFASs, including those that have replaced PFOA. PFOA and its replacements are suspected to belong to a large class of artificial compounds called endocrine-disrupting chemicals these compounds, which include chemicals used in the production of pesticides, plastics and gasoline, interfere with human reproduction and metabolism and cause cancer, thyroid problems and nervous-system disorders. In the last five years, however, a new wave of endocrinology research has found that even extremely low doses of such chemicals can create significant health problems. Among the Madrid scientists’ recommendations: ‘‘Enact legislation to require only essential uses of PFASs’’ and ‘‘Whenever possible, avoid products containing, or manufactured using, PFASs. These include many products that are stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick.’’

When asked about the Madrid Statement, Dan Turner, DuPont’s head of global media relations, wrote in an email: ‘‘DuPont does not believe the Madrid Statement reflects a true consideration of the available data on alternatives to long-chain perfluorochemicals, such as PFOA. DuPont worked for more than a decade, with oversight from regulators, to introduce its alternatives. Extensive data has been developed, demonstrating that these alternatives are much more rapidly eliminated from the body than PFOA, and have improved health safety profiles. We are confident that these alternative chemistries can be used safely — they are well characterized, and the data has been used to register them with environmental agencies around the world.’’

Every year Rob Bilott writes a letter to the E.P.A. and the West Virginia D.E.P., urging the regulation of PFOA in drinking water. In 2009, the E.P.A. set a ‘‘provisional’’ limit of 0.4 parts per billion for short-term exposure, but has never finalized that figure. This means that local water districts are under no obligation to tell customers whether PFOA is in their water. In response to Bilott’s most recent letter, the E.P.A. claimed that it would announce a ‘‘lifetime health advisory level for PFOA’’ by ‘‘early 2016.’’

This advisory level, if indeed announced, might be a source of comfort to future generations. But if you are a sentient being reading this article in 2016, you already have PFOA in your blood. It is in your parents’ blood, your children’s blood, your lover’s blood. How did it get there? Through the air, through your diet, through your use of nonstick cookware, through your umbilical cord. Or you might have drunk tainted water. The Environmental Working Group has found manufactured fluoro­chemicals present in 94 water districts across 27 states (see sidebar beginning on Page 38). Residents of Issaquah, Wash. Wilmington, Del. Colorado Springs and Nassau County on Long Island are among those whose water has a higher concentration of fluorochemicals than that in some of the districts included in Rob Bilott’s class-action suit. The drinking water in Parkersburg itself, whose water district was not included in the original class-action suit and has failed to compel DuPont to pay for a filtration system, is currently tainted with high levels of PFOA. Most residents appear not to know this.

Where scientists have tested for the presence of PFOA in the world, they have found it. PFOA is in the blood or vital organs of Atlantic salmon, swordfish, striped mullet, gray seals, common cormorants, Alaskan polar bears, brown pelicans, sea turtles, sea eagles, Midwestern bald eagles, California sea lions and Laysan albatrosses on Sand Island, a wildlife refuge on Midway Atoll, in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, about halfway between North America and Asia.

‘‘We see a situation,’’ Joe Kiger says, ‘‘that has gone from Washington Works, to statewide, to the United States, and now it’s everywhere, it’s global. We’ve taken the cap off something here. But it’s just not DuPont. Good God. There are 60,000 unregulated chemicals out there right now. We have no idea what we’re taking.’’

Bilott doesn’t regret fighting DuPont for the last 16 years, nor for letting PFOA consume his career. But he is still angry. ‘‘The thought that DuPont could get away with this for this long,’’ Bilott says, his tone landing halfway between wonder and rage, ‘‘that they could keep making a profit off it, then get the agreement of the governmental agencies to slowly phase it out, only to replace it with an alternative with unknown human effects — we told the agencies about this in 2001, and they’ve essentially done nothing. That’s 14 years of this stuff continuing to be used, continuing to be in the drinking water all over the country. DuPont just quietly switches over to the next substance. And in the meantime, they fight everyone who has been injured by it.’’

Bilott is currently prosecuting Wolf v. DuPont, the second of the personal-injury cases filed by the members of his class. The plaintiff, John M. Wolf of Parkersburg, claims that PFOA in his drinking water caused him to develop ulcerative colitis. That trial begins in March. When it concludes, there will be 3,533 cases left to try.

Dark Waters tells the chilling true story of DuPont.

Remember Erin Brockovich? Played by Julia Roberts in an award-winning performance in a movie by the same name, the film told the story of Erin, who despite her lack of formal legal education, was instrumental in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California in 1993.

Dark Waters feels like it exists in the same universe, though it follows a lawyer this time, who similarly brings DuPont to task in West Virginia in a 20-year legal battle. 

In 1998, Wilbur Tennant, the farmer we see in the trailer, contacted Robert when he believed that poison in the water his cattle was drinking was responsible for killing 190 of his cows.

"They&aposre hiding something," the two begin to suspect. "What if whatever is killing those cows is in the drinking water?" Although Robert had been working as a successful lawyer in Cincinnati, he accepted this case because he had spent time in Parkersburg, W.Va. as a child, since that&aposs where his grandmother lived.

Soon, Robert discovered that DuPont had been dumping chemical waste — including an unregulated chemical compound — near the site where Wilbur was raising his cattle. During his research, Robert learned that DuPont had been engaging in this practice since at least 1951.

And it turned out that not only was Wilbur right in that DuPont had been indirectly killing his cattle, but Robert also realized that DuPont was concealing evidence in the case, particularly as it regarded the unregulated chemical. As a consequence, an angered Robert decided to make this case public and get justice not only for the cattle, but for the Parkersburg residents whose lives were put at danger through the consumption of the poisoned water.

Thus began an extremely long and contentious battle between Robert and the people of Parkersburg he was defending, and the chemical mogul known as DuPont. According to Salon, which published a long-form article about the case that we recommend reading, the Environmental Protection Agency got involved in the suit as well.

In 2004, the EPA "filed a lawsuit against DuPont, charging it with concealing evidence about C8&aposs risks for more than two decades." The following year, DuPont agreed to pay $16.5 million as part of a settlement with EPA, which was "the largest civil penalty ever in the agency&aposs history."

But that&aposs not even where the story ends. After that success, Robert continued his pursuit of taking DuPont to task and getting justice for the 70,000 Parkersburg residents that the company poisoned. Eventually, DuPont "put $70 million into a community health and education project," according to Salon

"In a rather unusual move, the company also agreed to fund a multimillion dollar health study, overseen by independent, court-appointed scientists, to determine whether exposure to C8 had actually harmed people," the piece continues. "Moreover, DuPont agreed that if the study did prove that the C8 had caused certain diseases, those who suffered from diseases connected to C8 would be entitled to sue individually for personal injury."

We can&apost wait to see how this riveting legal case is brought to life by Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, who are already receiving Oscar buzz for their performances. 

Dark Waters will be released in select theaters Nov. 22, and across America on Nov. 29.

DuPont Corporation - History

By Richard Sanders, Editor, Press for Conversion!

In the 1930s, the du Pont and Morgan family empires dominated the American corporate elite and their representatives were central figures in organizing and funding the American Liberty League. The du Pont family was so complicit in this fascist organization that James Farley, FDR's postmaster general and one of his closest advisors, said the American Liberty League "ought to be called the American Cellophane League" because "first it's a Du Pont product and second, you can see right through it'" (Donald R. McCoy, Coming of Age ). Gerard Colby, in his book DuPont Dynasty , outlines the family's pivotal role in creating and funding the League. (Click here for an excerpt.) The Dickstein-McCormack Committee learned that weapons and equipment for the fascist plotters’ Croix de feu-like superarmy “could be obtained from the Remington Arms Co., on credit through the Du Ponts.” Du Pont had acquired control of the arms company in 1932.

The du Pont Co., formed in 1802 by Elèuthere Irénée du Pont de Nemours, dominated U.S. gunpowder sales for more than a century. Elèuthere I. du Pont’s father, Pierre Samuel, a French economist, politician and publisher had helped negotiate the Paris Treaty to end America’s revolution. His rightwing views made French radicals very suspicious and they sentenced him to the guillotine. Somehow, he and his son, Elèuthere, were released and escaped to America, where they arrived January 1, 1800, with a vast fortune.

To challenge England’s domination of the global gunpowder trade, Napoleon helped E.I. du Pont establish an American gunpowder business in 1802. Pierre returned to France and negotiated the French sale of about a million square miles of land to America (Louisiana Purchase, 1803). Meanwhile, his son made his first gunpowder sales to a close family friend, President Thomas Jefferson.

Du Pont produced only gunpowder. They were the main supplier of this product during many wars, including:

* War of 1812 (supplying the U.S. against Britain/Canada)

* South American wars (supplying both Spain and Bolivar’s republics)

* Mexican-American War, 1846 (supplying the U.S.)

* Indian Wars, 1827-1896 (supplying Manifest Destiny’s genocidal westward expansion)

* Crimean War, 1854 (supplying both England and Russia)

* U.S. Civil war, 1861-1865 (supplying the Northern states)

* Spanish-American War, 1898 (supplying the U.S.)

* WWI, 1914-1918 (supplied all U.S. orders 40% of the Allies’ needs)

In 1897, when they agreed with European competitors to divide up the world, du Pont got exclusive control of gunpowder sales in the Americas. By 1905, du Pont had assets of 60 million and controlled all U.S. government orders. Du Pont bought out 100 of its American competitors and closed most of them down (1903-1907). In 1907, U.S. anti-Trust laws created two competitors for du Pont and in 1912 the government ordered du Pont to divest from some explosives production. Du Pont then diversified into newspaper publishing, chemicals, paints, varnishes, cellophane and rayon. WWI was particularly profitable. Du Pont, the world’s largest producer of dynamite and smokeless gunpowder, made unheard-of net profits of $250 million.

Between the wars, du Pont was the world’s top manufacturer of explosives, the world’s leading chemical company and the top producer of cars and synthetic rubber, another strategic war material. By the 1930s, it owned Mexican and Chilean explosive companies and a Canadian chemical company. Although still the top U.S. gunpowder supplier, this product represented only 2% of its total production.

Du Pont’s General Motors Co. funded a vigilante/terrorist organization to stop unionization in its Midwestern factories. Called the “Black Legion,” its members wore black robes decorated with a white skull and crossbones. Concealed behind their slitted hoods, this KKK-like network of white-supremacist thugs threw bombs into union halls, set fire to labor activists’ homes, tortured union organizers and killed at least 50 in Detroit alone. Many of their victims were Blacks lured North by tales of good auto-plant jobs. One of their victims, Rev. Earl Little, was murdered in 1931. His son, later called Malcolm X, was then six. An earlier memory, his first, was a night-time raid in 1929 when the Legion burnt down their house. Gerard Colby had this to say about the Black Legion in his book Dupont Dynasty (1984):

"But corporate executives did not give up the tactic of vigilante groups, and on June 1, 1936, Cowdrick wrote Harry Anderson, G.M's labor relations director, to ask his opinion of the Sentinels of the Republic. Anderson was apparently unaware of Irénée du Pont's support of this organization, but offered his own home-brew alternative. "With reference to your letter of June 1 regarding the Sentinels of the Republic," he replied a few days later, "I have never heard of the organization. Maybe you could use a little Black Legion down in your country. It might help."

The "Black Legion" Anderson referred to was indeed a great help to General Motors in its struggle to prevent auto workers from unionizing. With members wearing black robes and slitted hoods adorned with white skull and crossbones, the Black Legion was the terror of Michigan and Ohio auto flelds, riding like Klansmen through the night in car caravans, bombing union halls, burning down homes of labor militants, and flogging and murdering union organizers. The organization was divided into arson squads, bombing squads, execution squads, and anti-communist squads, and membership discipline on pain of torture or death was strictly enforced. Legion cells filled G.M. factories, terrorizing workers and recruiting Ku Klux Klansmen.

Since 1933 the Black Legion's power had permeated police departments."

The Legion, claiming 200,000 members in Michigan, was divided into distinct squads, each focused on a different aspect of their work for du Pont: arson, bombing, execution and anti-communism. The Legion’s cells within GM factories intimidated workers, targeted Jews and recruited for the KKK. They worked together to stop Reds and unions that demanded their labour rights.

Thanks to a Senate Munitions Investigating Committee (1934-1936) that examined criminal, warprofit-eering practices of arms companies during WWI, the public learned that du Pont had led munitions companies in sabotaging a League of Nations’ disarmament conference in Geneva. The committee’s chair, Gerald Nye, said that once “the munitions people of the world had made the treaty a satisfactory one to themselves. Colonel Simons [of Du Pont] is reporting that even the State Department realized, in effect, who controlled the Nation.”

The du Ponts fought back against widespread public condemnation that rightly labeled them “merchants of death.” They claimed that communists were behind the Senate hearings, and blamed the Committee for undermining U.S. military power. In response, Chairman Nye, a Republican from North Dakota, pointing out that du Pont had made six times as many millions of dollars during WWI than during the preceding four years “so naturally Mr. du Pont sees red when he sees these profits attacked by international peace.”

The du Pont Co., and particularly GM, was a major contributor to Nazi military efforts to wipe communism off the map of Europe. In 1929, GM bought Adam Opel, Germany’s largest car manufacturer. In 1974, a Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly heard evidence from researcher Bradford Snell proving that that in 1935, GM opened an Opel factory to supply the Nazi’s with “Blitz” military trucks. In appreciation, for this help, Adolf Hitler awarded GM’s chief executive for overseas operations, James Mooney, with the Order of the German Eagle (first class). Besides military trucks, Germany’s GM workers also producing armored cars, tanks and bomber engines.

Du Pont’s GM and Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New Jersey collaborated with I.G. Farben, the Nazi chemical cartel, to form Ethyl GmbH. This subsidiary, now called Ethyl Inc., built German factories to give the Nazis leaded gas fuel (synthetic tetraethyl fuel) for their military vehicles (1936-1939). Snell quotes from German records captured during the war:

"The fact that since the beginning of the war we could produce lead-tetraethyl is entirely due to the circumstances that, shortly before, the Americans [Du Pont, GM and Standard Oil] had presented us with the production plants complete with experimental knowledge. Without lead-tetraethyl the present method of warfare would be unthinkable."

Since WWII, du Pont has continued to be an instrument of U.S. government weapons production. Besides supplying plastics, rubber and textiles to military contractors, it invented various new forms of explosives and rocket propellants, manufactured numerous chemical weapons and was instrumental in building the world’s first plutonium production plant for the atomic bomb. It pumped out Agent Orange and Napalm, thus destroying millions of lives, livelihoods and whole ecosystems in Southeast Asia.

With 2,000 brand names, 100,000 employees and annual sales of $25 billion in 1998, du Pont is one of the world’s biggest corporations. It’s 1939 slogan, “Better Things for Better Living…Through Chemistry,” belies a destructive legacy that will last thousands of generations. One of the globe’s worst polluters, it pioneered the creation, marketing and coverup of almost every dangerous chemical toxin ever known. It now faces countless lawsuits for the adverse health and environmental effects of its products, the unsafe working conditions in its factories and the foolhardy, disposal practices it flaunts as final solutions for its waste products. Here is a small sampling of du Pont’s gifts to the planet:

* Sulphur dioxide and lead paint
* CFCs: 25% of the world’s supply and almost 50% of the U.S. market.
* Herbicides and pesticides: brain damage, hormone system disruption.
* Formaldehyde: cancer and respiratory illnesses.
* Dioxins: Leading the way to create these carcinogens, du Pont then suppressed data on their deadly effects.
* Highly-processed, unnutritious products marketed as healthy food.
* Genetically modified foods and “Terminator”/“Killer seeds” threaten food security for 1.4 billion people who depend on farm-saved seeds.
* Patenting plant genes and stealing the Third World’s genetic resources.
* Using U.S. prison labour and factories in many oppressive regimes.
* Its oil subsidiary, Conoco, provided petrochemical raw materials and caused environmental devastation.
* Du Pont is one of the world’s biggest producers of green house gases.
* Sold for 33 years, the fungicide Benlate destroyed crops, shrimp farms and caused birth defects.
* Since the 1920s, du Pont produced leaded gas which is responsible for 80-90% of the world’s environmental lead contamination. Besides fueling Nazi war machines that rolled and flew across Europe killing tens of millions, this product’s legacy includes retarding children’s mental health and causing hypertension in adults. Du Pont’s helped stop the U.S. ban until 1996, and then increased its overseas sales.

H.C. Engelbrecht and F.C. Hanigan, Merchants of Death, 1934

Gerard Colby, Du Pont Dynasty, 1984

Charles Higham, Trading with the Enemy, 1983.

Researchers Morton Mintz and Jerry S. Cohen, in their book, "Power Inc.,

The Elkhorn Manifesto Part II, U.S. CORPORATIONS AND THE NAZIS

Source: Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue # 53, "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," March 2004. Published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.

Order a Copy: Order a hard copy of this 54-page issue of Press for Conversion! on the fascist plot to overthrow President F.D.Roosevelt and the corporate leaders who planned and financed this failed coup.

Irénée, the most imposing and powerful member of the du Pont clan, was obsessed with Hitler’s principles. He keenly followed the future Fuhrer’s career in the 1920s. On Sept. 7, 1926, in a speech to the American Chemical Society, he advocated a race of supermen, to be achieved by injecting special drugs into them in boyhood to make their characters to order. He insisted his men reach physical standards equivalent to that of a Marine and have blood as pure as that in the veins of the Vikings. Despite the fact that he had Jewish blood in his own veins, his anti-Semitism matched that of Hitler.

In outright defiance of Roosevelt’s desire to improve working conditions for the average man, GM and the Du Ponts instituted the speedup systems. These forced men to work at terrifying speeds on the assembly lines. Many died of the heat and pressure, increased by fear of losing their jobs. Irénée paid almost $1 million from his own pocket for armed and gas-equipped storm troops modeled on the Gestapo to sweep through the plants and beat up anyone who proved rebellious. He hired the Pinkerton Agency to send its swarms of detectives through the whole [du Pont] chemicals, munitions and auto empire to spy on left-wingers or other malcontents.

Source : Trading with the Enemy: An Expose of the Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949 , 1983.

DuPont Co.'s 19 leaders since 1802

DuPont has had 19 company chiefs in its history. Here are the years they served:

Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, 1802-1834: The company's Paris-born founder went into the gunpowder business at the urging of Thomas Jefferson.

Alfred V. du Pont, 1834-1850: Eldest son of E.I. du Pont, he was a scientist and inventor.

Henry du Pont, 1850-1889: The founder's second son and the longest-serving leader of the business.

Eugene du Pont, 1889-1902: A grandson of E.I. du Pont, he died of pneumonia reportedly brought on by overwork.

T. Coleman du Pont, 1902-1915: He and two other great-grandsons of the founder turned DuPont into a publicly held corporation.

Pierre S. du Pont, 1915-1919: One of the three cousins who moved DuPont toward science and innovation.

Irénée du Pont, 1919-1926: Pierre's brother and a great-grandson of the founder, he reorganized the internal structure of the company.

Lammot du Pont, 1926-1940: Pierre and Irenee's brother, he led the company through the commercialization of Freon refrigerant and synthetics.

Walter S. Carpenter Jr., 1940-1948: The first president who was not a du Pont family member.

DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman's abrupt departure

Crawford H. Greenewalt, 1948-1962: Led DuPont through a court-ordered divestiture of its stake in General Motors.

Lammot du Pont Copeland, 1962-1967: The last du Pont family member to run the company.

Charles B. McCoy, 1967-1973: Oversaw a merger with Christiana Securities, which ended du Pont family control.

Irving S. Shapiro, 1973-1981: Leapfrogged from DuPont's legal department to its front office.

Edward G. Jefferson, 1981-1986: Engineered the 1981 merger with Conoco Inc.

Richard E. Heckert, 1986-1989: Led a drive to make management more sensitive to sales and marketing.

Edgar S. Woolard Jr., 1989-1995: Led the company through a major restructuring and employee cutbacks during the '90s.

John A. Krol, 1995-1998: Put an emphasis on life sciences.

Charles O. Holliday Jr., 1998-2008: Oversaw $60 billion worth of changes to the company's portfolio.

Ellen J. Kullman, 2008-2015: Oversaw continued consolidation while defending the company from billionaire activist investor Nelson Peltz.

Watch the video: DuPont Cyrel FAST 3000TD