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DuPont announces PFAS stewardship commitments

DuPont has announced what it called “a set of comprehensive commitments related to its use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)”. These it said, “represent both new and strengthened positions on sustainability and environmental and chemical stewardship”. Specifically it will:

* Eliminate the use of long-chain PFAS in recently integrated operations by the end of 2019

* Eliminate the purchase and use of all firefighting foams made with PFASs at its sites by the end of 2021 * Continue to remediate sites with a PFAS footprint

* Support EPA and other global regulatory efforts to develop science-based guidelines for PFAS and commit to meeting these requirements in its global operations

* Provide free access to its product stewardship software, grant royalty-free licences to others that want to pursue PFAS remediation using its PFAS water treatment resin technologies, and fund grants to universities and other research institutes for new remediation technologies, starting in 2020

* Add external experts to supplement existing review processes for the use and handling of substances of concern

* Share its progress toward meeting these commitments

PFAS chemicals are getting a bad name because of claimed links to multiple effects on human health, including testicular and kidney cancer, and developmental problems in foetuses and breast-fed infants, as well as with environmental damage. Several US states have passed laws to prohibit or restrict their use, notably in firefighting foams, food contact materials and food packaging, and there are many ongoing lawsuits over these issues.

DuPont also stressed that it does not make perfluorooctanoic acid, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid or GenX, the key PFASs, and has never made or sold firefighting foam. However, some regard this statement as disingenuous, given that DuPont did make these substances until 2015. Chemours, which took over the legacy chemicals business, is now at loggerheads with DuPont over these very substances. I

n May, Chemours filed a lawsuit over the legacy environmental liabilities at its three PFAS sites in the US. The suit seeks to: remove the liability caps placed on Chemours as part of the spin-off; nullify the clauses in the separation agreement that indemnified DuPont from any liabilities at 80 sites, some of which it does not operate; and force DuPont to return the $4 billion it paid to its shareholders from future Chemours operations. It further claimed that DuPont span it off to avoid paying for these liabilities and that the estimated costs related to them were “systematically and spectacularly wrong”. DuPont has strongly denied all this.

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