Thursday, February 02, 2006


We should have known when they told us not to have birds in the kitchen when cooking with Teflon pans. Canaries were used to warn miners of toxic gases. The birds keeled over first. Now, we are being told that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), an ingredient in Teflon, may be harmful to our health. PFOA is also in grease proof wrapping for foods. In fact, it is in 95 percent of us.

In the late 1990s, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received information that perfluorooctyl sulfonates (PFOS) were widespread in the blood of the general population, and presented concerns for persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity. Following discussions between EPA and 3 M, the manufacturer of PFOS, the company stopped producing these chemicals. EPA then began to review similar chemicals, including PFOA, starting in 2000.

The Agency found that PFOA, like PFOS, is persistent in the environment and is in the blood of the general US population. Studies indicated that PFOA can cause developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals. PFOA also appears to remain in the human body for a long time.

Fluoropolymers impart properties, including fire resistance and oil, stain, grease, and water repellency. They are used to provide non-stick surfaces on cookware and waterproof, breathable membranes for clothing. They are employed in hundreds of other uses in almost all industry segments.

“At present,” the EPA says, “there are no steps that EPA recommends that consumers take to reduce exposure to PFOA because the sources of PFOA in the environment and the pathways by which people are exposed are not known.”

Hey gang, what about DuPont. The company has agreed to phase out PFOA used in grease proof wrapping for foods. PFOA is used to line grease-resistant packaging for candy, pizza, microwave popcorn and hundreds of other food products. DuPont was hit last year by allegations that it hid studies showing the high health risks of the chemical. DuPont denied the charges. The move to phase out PFOA, however, came just a month after DuPont reached a $16.5 million settlement with EPA over the company's failure to report possible health risks associated with PFOA.

The EPA has recently called on DuPont and six other corporations to voluntarily eliminate PFOA and similar substances from plant emissions and products by 2015. So far, only DuPont has agreed, but says eliminating it altogether may be impossible.

Other US agencies concerned with PFOA include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Toxicology Program. You can obtain more information about their concerns at and

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