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Lawyers who represent potentially 10 million Teflon cookware users in federal multidistrict litigation against DuPont are hoping to make stick their claims that they should have been warned of the potential health dangers of the coating. But the fight has just begun. First, they must convince a federal judge in Des Moines, Iowa-where 14 class actions were consolidated and transferred from 12 other states in February-to grant class certification to the plaintiffs. In re Teflon Products Liability Litigation, No. 06md1733 (S.D. Iowa). The original cases, filed in federal court as required by the Class Action Fairness Act, come from U.S. district courts in California, Florida, Massachsetts, Pennsylvania and Texas, among other states. The lawyers met presiding U.S. District Judge Ronald E. Longstaff for the first time last week at the first status conference, said Alan J. Kluger, lead plaintiffs’ counsel and a commercial litigator at Miami’s Kluger, Peretz, Kaplan & Berlin. The plaintiffs’ attorneys, so far “an informal group of lawyers working together,” have “met and spoken regularly over the last 10 months and dealt with the science issues and the document issues,” Kluger said. Failure to warn cases Kluger emphasized that these are not personal injury claims but consumer cases over E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.’s alleged failure to warn consumers of the purported carcinogenic and respiratory hazards of toxic fumes released while using Teflon pots and pans at high temperatures. “This is a consumer class action essentially predicated on the fact that DuPont had information based on its own studies that clearly raised alarms as to respiratory diseases and other potentially harmful effects of cooking with Teflon at certain temperatures,” Kluger said. “This stuff shouldn’t be on the market, period.” But Daniel A. Turner, a spokesman for Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont, said in a written statement that the company believes the allegations to be without merit and intends a vigorous defense of the cases. The plaintiffs combine allegations about what happens to Teflon-coated cookware when exposed to extreme heat with conjectures from the broader scientific discussion of the possible carcinogenic qualities of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)-a chemical used to make Teflon and other products-in an attempt “to turn them into a consumer issue relating to pots and pans,” Turner said. PFOA is a “building block” in the process used to manufacture coatings such as Teflon as well as stain-, oil- and water-resistant additives for some textiles and paper products, according to DuPont’s Web site. Turner pointed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site, which says EPA “wants to emphasize that it does not have any indication that the public is being exposed to PFOA through the use of Teflon-coated or other trademarked nonstick cookware.” PFOA is an “environmental and workplace issue that DuPont has addressed responsibly while working in conjunction with the EPA,” Turner said. “What plaintiffs ignore is that there is no reliable evidence demonstrating that there is danger to consumers from using cookware coated with Teflon under normal cooking conditions.” Last December, DuPont agreed to pay $10.25 million, “the largest civil administrative penalty EPA has ever obtained under any federal environmental statute,” according to the EPA’s Web site, as well as $6.25 million in “supplemental environmental projects,” to resolve actions related to the alleged release of PFOA into the environment. In the matter of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., EPA docket nos. TSCA-HQ-2004-0016, RCRA-HQ-2004-0016 and TSCA-HQ-2005-5001. In February 2005, DuPont paid $70 million and committed as much as $235 million for long-term medical monitoring to settle a private class action environmental contamination case with West Virginia and Ohio residents over its alleged release of PFOA from its Washington Works facility in Parkersburg, W.Va. Leach v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., No. 01C-608 (Wood Co., W.Va., Cir. Ct.). However, it is the company’s position that “PFOA exposure does not pose any health risk to the general public. To date no human health effects are known to be caused by PFOA even in workers who have significantly higher exposure levels than the general population,” according to its Web site.

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