DuPont is facing an $800 million lawsuit that alleges it operated an "illegal" chemical manufacturing plant in Texas for four years, and polluted the air with high levels of toxic benzene from a second Texas plant. Those are two highlights of 687 violations allegedly uncovered at 15 plants.
The allegations come courtesy of Invista, a fibers and resins business The Koch Industries bought from DuPont in 2004 for $4 billion, according to the Wichita Eagle. Invista wants DuPont to pay for the cost of correcting past environmental, health and safety violations, plus a few million dollars in penalties for "deliberately putting employees and the public at significant health risk," as the Eagle put it.
DuPont called the lawsuit "misguided."
If the allegations are true, they are serious. Benzene has been extensively studied, and the results aren't pretty:
"Breathing very high levels of benzene can result in death, while high levels can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness.," according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal agency. "Eating or drinking foods containing high levels of benzene can cause vomiting, irritation of the stomach, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, rapid heart rate, and death.
"The major effect of benzene from long-term exposure is on the blood. Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and can affect the immune system, increasing the chance for infection.
"Some women who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries, but we do not know for certain that benzene caused the effects. It is not known whether benzene will affect fertility in men.
"Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, particularly acute myelogenous leukemia, often referred to as AML. This is a cancer of the bloodforming organs. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene is a known carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the EPA have determined that benzene is carcinogenic to humans."
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.