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DuPont settles lawsuits over Teflon-making chemical leak

(Reuters) -- DuPont and Chemours Co said on Monday they had agreed to pay about $671 million in cash to settle several lawsuits related to the leak of a toxic chemical, used to make Teflon, that has been linked to cancer and other diseases.

The company said it settled about 3,550 personal injury claims arising from the leak of perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOA or C-8, from DuPont's plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

The leak allegedly contaminated local water supplies and has been linked to six diseases, including testicular and kidney cancers.

DuPont said in a statement that it had stopped using C-8 in operations at the West Virginia plant more than a decade ago. It had used C-8 there since the early 1950s."

Chemours Co, which was spun off from DuPont to house its performance chemicals segment, said it will pay half of the settlement. Both companies denied any wrongdoing.

"We look forward to working with DuPont to finalize this settlement and get these injured class members paid as quickly as possible," Rob Bilott, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

The settlement comes ahead of DuPont's planned $130 billion merger with Dow Chemical Co, which is due to close later this year.

In 2001, residents brought a class action against DuPont over C-8 exposure. The company agreed in 2004 to fund medical monitoring programs and install new water treatment systems.

DuPont convened a panel of scientists to determine whether any diseases were linked to C-8. The panel concluded that there was a probable link between C-8 and six diseases: kidney and testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and high cholesterol.

Members of the class action lawsuit, suffering from one of the diseases, then individually sued DuPont. The company agreed not to challenge whether C-8 can cause those diseases, but plaintiffs still must prove it is to blame for their individual illnesses.

In October 2015, a US jury awarded a kidney cancer patient $1.6 million after finding DuPont was liable for the leak. This was seen as the first bellwether case.

Chemours shares were up 10.2% at $31 in premarket trading. DuPont shares were little changed.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D'Couto and Shounak Dasgupta

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