WASHINGTON - A $5 billion class action lawsuit is being filed against DuPont Co. saying the chemical giant long failed to warn consumers on the dangers of a Teflon chemical.

Two Florida law firms said Tuesday they were filing the suit in federal courts in eight states on behalf of 14 people who bought and used cookware with the nonstick Teflon. It is made using perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts, known as PFOA, or C-8.

The plaintiffs want DuPont to spend $5 billion to replace the cookware, impose a Teflon warning label and create two funds to pay for medical monitoring and more scientific research, said Alan Kluger of Miami-based Kluger, Peretz, Kaplan & Berlin, P.L.

PFOA also is used in many other of the company's most popular products, such as auto fuel systems, firefighting foam, phone cables, computer chips and clothing.

"DuPont has known for over 20 years that the Teflon product and the PFOA chemical it contains causes cancer in laboratory animals," Kluger said. "I don't have to prove that it causes cancer. I only have to prove that DuPont lied in a massive attempt to continue selling their product."

DuPont spokesman Clif Webb said Tuesday the Wilmington, Del.-based company "will vigorously defend itself against the allegations raised in this lawsuit."

"Consumers using products sold under the Teflon brand are safe," Webb said. "Cookware coated with DuPont Teflon nonstick coatings does not contain PFOA. This has been verified by an independent peer reviewed study of consumer products announced in April of 2005."

Webb said other federal tests also "show that nonstick coatings used for cookware sold under the Teflon brand, do not contain any PFOA."

The suit is being brought against DuPont under each state's consumer protection laws, saying PFOA causes cancer in laboratory animals and might do the same in people. The chemical has been in use since World War II but its long-term effects on people are unknown.

Kluger said DuPont has sold or licensed more than $40 billion in Teflon cookware in the past 40 years, and people have a "right to know that there was a possibility of risk to them and their families."

He said the suit was being filed initially in Florida, California, New York, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, and could spread to other states later.

A scientific review panel advised the Environmental Protection Agency the chemical is "likely" to be carcinogenic to humans, but DuPont officials disputed the draft report. The panel agreed to include more opposing viewpoints before submitting it to EPA this month.

EPA concluded that DuPont failed to meet federal reporting requirements on PFOA between 1981 and 2001, claims the company disputed in legal proceedings. No agreement has been reached yet. Those resulted from the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, bringing DuPont's record on PFOA to EPA's attention.

DuPont settled another class action suit over PFOA filed in 2001 by residents around the company's Washington Works plant, situated along the Ohio River near Parkersburg, W.Va. In February, DuPont set aside $70 million to pay for medical screenings for many of the 80,000 Ohio and West Virginia residents near the plant. They get their water from six public water districts or from private wells within those districts where PFOA concentrations were found.
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