WASHINGTON -- DuPont Co. hid studies showing the risks of a Teflon-related chemical used to line candy wrappers, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags and hundreds of other food containers, according to internal company documents and a former employee.
The chemical Zonyl can rub off the liner and get into food. Once in a person's body, it can break down into perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts, known as PFOA, a related chemical used in the making of Teflon-coated cookware.
The Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to decide whether to classify PFOA as a "likely" human carcinogen. The Food and Drug Administration, in a letter released Wednesday evening by DuPont, said it was continuing to monitor the safety of PFOA chemicals in food.
The DuPont documents were made public Wednesday by the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization.
At the same time, a former DuPont chemical engineer, Glenn Evers, told reporters at a news conference at EWG's office that the company long suppressed its studies on the chemical.
"They are toxic," Evers said of the PFOA chemicals. "They get into human blood. And they are also in every one of you. Your loved ones, your fellow citizens."
From 1981 to 2002, Evers helped DuPont develop new products. He lost his job in 2002 in what DuPont described as a company restructuring.
Evers had a different view: "It is my belief DuPont pushed me out of the company" because he started raising concerns about the chemicals' safety.
Evers said he decided to talk publicly about the PFOA problem after filing a civil suit against DuPont this month in a Delaware court. Evers' aim is mainly to "set the record straight" about the chemical and his own career, said Herb Feuerhake, Evers' lawyer.
But Evers said he also hoped to influence the outcome of an EPA hearing later this month on whether DuPont had withheld from EPA the study on PFOA and possible birth defects. The company could be fined millions of dollars.
After EWG tracked down Evers _ who had provided expert, unpaid testimony in two lawsuits against DuPont _ the 47-year-old Delaware resident said he talked it over with his priest, who told him, "`You can't dance with the devil.'"
DuPont denied allegations that PFOA posed a health risk, saying the Food and Drug Administration had approved the products for consumers.