Updated Fri, Dec 7, 2012 5:36 pm
Residents in three Southeast Ohio counties have filed a series of lawsuits against a West Virginia plant.
Athens, Meigs and Washington County residents are included in the 22 lawsuits that had been filed against Dupont Chemical as of Friday.
Kathy Brown, an attorney based out of Charleston, said the lawsuits against the Parkersburg company have the potential to affect 80,000 people.
According to the lawsuits, the Parkersburg company used a chemical known as "C-8" as a processing agent to make Teflon and other non-stick products and textiles between the 1950's and 2000. During the manufacturing process, a large amount of this chemical was released into the air, the Ohio River and in private wells.
The plaintiffs claim that this prolonged exposure has led to side effects that have resulted in personal injury and possibly even death.
"We've already filed one case in Parkersburg where the gentleman had died of kidney cancer," said Brown.
As a result of a class-action lawsuit against Dupont in 2001, a science panel was formed to study the effects of C-8 on humans. That panel found that the chemical is linked to various ailments including kidney cancer, testicular cancer and thyroid disease.
However, when the class-action suit was settled, it did not cover personal injuries for individuals as a result of possible exposure.
Brown, who is representing the plaintiffs, said she has held town halls in Southeast Ohio and West Virginia to inform residents about how they could qualify for a claim and the steps they could take to file one against the company.
"We were letting people know what their rights are and telling them that the clock is running on their claim," Brown said.
Brown said she expects more lawsuits to be filed as a result of her town hall meetings.
To be eligible to file a suit, a resident must have lived in one of the affected water districts for more than one year before December 2004.
Affected water districts in Ohio include Belpre, Little Hocking, Tuppers Plains and Pomeroy. Affected districts in West Virginia include Lubeck Public Service District and Mason County Public Service District.
A spokesperson for Brown said she intends to hold her next town hall meeting about the lawsuits in Point Pleasant, West Virginia on Tuesday.