A trial is now underway against DuPont in Columbus Ohio for the dumping of dangerous chemicals into the Ohio River. At the courthouse in Columbus yesterday, expert witness Dr. Michael Siegel opined that DuPont should have let the public know there was a potential toxin in their drinking water. Instead, DuPont decided not to issue press releases it had internally drafted to explain their findings about the danger of the main chemical involved in the lawsuit, a compound known as C8, used in the manufacture of Teflon.

This trial is the first of a long string of some 3,500 similar lawsuits arising from the poisoning of drinking water in the area of DuPont’s plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia. DuPont’s position in the ongoing trial is that C8 did not cause cancer in the plaintiff, even though it is capable of causing cancer. DuPont also wishes to make much of the fact that C8 was an “unregulated” chemical. At issue in Dr. Siegel’s testimony was whether DuPont violated a duty to inform the public by deciding not to issue the draft press release.

Another document introduced at trial indicated that the company’s own medical experts had recommended as early as 1984 that the company stop using the chemical. The document was marked “confidential.” Later, studies funded by DuPont concluded that C8 caused cancer and other diseases. As the trial continues, it is expected that the jury will see more documents that DuPont officials wished they could have kept confidential.