(NaturalNews) More than 3,000 individuals are expected to sign onto a massive lawsuit against the DuPont corporation over a toxic chemical linked to thyroid disease and cancer. Commonly known as C8, the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was intentionally released by the company into the air and water, say plaintiffs, resulting in tens of thousands of injuries and deaths across West Virginia and Ohio.
The issue stems from DuPont's Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, which used to manufacture C8 in high volumes for use in nonstick cookware. Though the chemical has since been retired, its ongoing release from the plant throughout the 1950s and the decades following resulted in major air and water pollution throughout the region, pollution that in some cases is only just beginning to cause problems.
"The suits claim that DuPont knew the chemical could be hurting people, but that the Wilmington-based company continued to release the chemical into the air and groundwater," wrote Aaron Nathans for The News Journal. "The chemical filtered down to the water table.... The original pollution began in the 1950s, and continued long afterward."
Tens of thousands of people could end up receiving compensation for DuPont crimes
It might not seem like a big deal to some -- after all, chemical companies manufacture chemicals all the time, right? In the case of C8, the plaintiffs allege that DuPont knew of its profound dangers but continued to use it at the expense of public health.
DuPont "has negligently, recklessly, maliciously, knowingly, carelessly, wrongfully and/or intentionally allowed, caused and/or otherwise permitted and is continuing to so allow, cause, and/or otherwise permit C-8 to be discharged, vented, emitted, and/or otherwise released from the plant," reads one of the suits filed back in February 2013.
DuPont-funded study found that C8 causes bowel disease, thyroid problems and cancer
Since that time, many others have filed similar suits, and thousands more are expected to follow in the coming months. Much of this momentum comes from the findings of a recent study that linked C8 exposure to a host of chronic diseases, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel disease), thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension (pre-eclampsia), and medically diagnosed and treated high cholesterol.
"We're adding more every day," stated Harry Deitzler, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the litigation against DuPont, to DelawareOnline.com, The News Journal's website.
Deitzler spearheaded the original class-action suit against DuPont that led to the company having to establish a scientific panel to investigate the dangers of C8. That panel discovered a verifiable link between the chemical and the aforementioned diseases, which has opened the door to further litigation for others who have been harmed by C8.
"The original settlement was estimated at as much as $343 million, which includes $70 million towards a large, comprehensive study of the medical conditions of people in the area," explains the Journal. "It was the largest human health study in history, in terms of the number of people involved, and the breadth of data collected from each person."
Thanks to this research, says Deitzler, it is now apparent that DuPont harmed many people with its chemical releases, and must now pay the price. Only about 20 plaintiffs are expected to have their cases heard during the early stages of the process, but these will set a precedent for how all the others will be handled in the future.
"Even though there will be eventually 3,000 different cases, you won't have 3,000 different rulings," said Deitzler, noting that the so-called "bellwether" cases will most likely go to trial at some point in 2015.