Dr. Anthony J. Playtis, a retired occupational hygienist employed at DuPont’s Washington Works facility, was the only witness called by the company’s defense attorneys yesterday in the case of Carla Bartlett v. DuPont. Although he was expected to support the company and its actions leading to the contamination of drinking water in Ohio and West Virginia, Dr. Playtis had to admit under cross-examination that DuPont’s Teflon chemical C8, which DuPont released in mass into the environment, is VERY toxic.

His admission to the toxicity of C8 highlighted the bio-persistence of the chemical, in the environment and in living organisms.  Even more shocking, Dr. Playtis admitted that he knew for more than a decade that the plant drinking water supply had been contaminated with C8, but he had not told anyone. Moreover, he acknowledged under oath that numerous epidemiological studies had been proposed by a company doctor, studies that would have specifically looked to address kidney cancer among Washington Works workers from exposure to C8, but DuPont never conducted those studies.

Dr. Playtis is not unknown to the history of C8 related problems from the plant located in Parkersburg, West Virginia. In 2004, it was reported that DuPont was continuing to make their same old excuses to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about their violations of federal law regarding the release and toxicity of C8, a chemical DuPont used in the production of Teflon.  DuPont’s 2003 response to the EPA’s original inquiry about C8 was still in effect and their defenses to the EPA’s charges had not changed, even after the EPA announced it would take formal action against DuPont for violating the Toxic Substances Control Act. The violations involved the withholding of key studies for a period of more than 20 years. 

Dr. Playtis’ role in withholding information can be inferred from the 2004 reports. On November 7, 1988, DuPont had tested a local residence for the presence of PFOA (C-8). However in a memo from Dr. Playtis, reporting on this analysis, the result is listed simply as, “contaminated sample, analysis not possible”. On May 4, 1989. DuPont tested again in the home. Again, the analysis report from Dr. Playtis gave the result as, “contaminated sample, analysis not possible.” An environmental working group in 2004 was unable to find any evidence that there was any followup by DuPont to get adequate samples from the home. Had the various study results that were withheld had been provided to the EPA as required by law, evidence of serious risks posed by C8 would have become apparent to the Agency decades earlier than they ultimately were.

Yesterday’s trial testimony from Dr. Playtis was part of DuPont’s case in defense of the claims of local resident Carla Bartlett, who lived near the plant and suffers from kidney cancer. This trial is the first of many that are expected to take place in the coming months, or perhaps years. Over 3,500 similar cases have been filed against DuPont and are pending in the Federal District Court sitting in Columbus, Ohio. Ms. Bartlett is represented by a team of trial lawyers led by Mike Papantonio of the Florida law firm of Levin Papantonio.