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“Dutch authorities on Thursday launched a criminal investigation into US chemical giant DuPont and its spinoff Chemours over years of pollution from so-called ‘forever chemicals’ at a plant south of Rotterdam.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office launched the probe after a class-action suit by 2,400 people over contamination from toxic chemicals found in everyday items such as non-stick frying pans and waterproof clothing.
The investigation will focus on emissions of PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid), one of a group of chemicals that take a long time to break down in nature and have been linked to cancer, infertility and environmental damage.
‘In the context of that investigation, we will also examine whether the managers of the company also have any criminal liability,’ prosecutors said in a statement.
The authorities said the probe would be ‘very complex, both factually and legally’ and would take at least a year to complete. The probe concerns pollution up until 2012.
The case is the latest legal action against chemical firms around the world, which have paid out billions to settle complaints over toxic products.
In June, US industrial conglomerate 3M said it would pay up to $12.5 billion to settle numerous claims from US public water systems accusing it of tainting their supplies with pollutants.
Based on US court documents, Dutch investigative programme Zembla reported in June that the Chemours plant, run by DuPont for decades, knew its chemicals were polluting Dordrecht and surrounding areas.
The programme led to a hearing in the Dutch parliament into the matter.
A Chemours spokesperson told local news agency ANP the firm would ‘co-operate fully’ with the probe.
‘We see it as our job to produce essential materials in a responsible fashion. We are constantly striving to improve our production process to further reduce the impact on our environment,’ the spokesperson was quoted as saying.
Lawyer Benedicte Ficq, who brought the case on behalf of the 2,400 people living near the plant, said it was an ‘important step’ in bringing those responsible for the pollution to justice and served as a ‘warning’ to other firms.
‘We must not play with well-being and the health of people and the environment. When that does happen, the bosses in smart suits will have to answer to the law,’ she said.”