A year after voluntarily agreeing with a request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce the use of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, in the production of its trademark Teflon non-stick product, the DuPont Company recently announced that it would phase out its production and use of the chemical altogether by 2015 (see “Don’t Pan-ic!” Your Health, May/June 2006).
The public brouhaha over PFOA first arose in 2001, when neighbors of an Ohio DuPont plant filed suit alleging that emissions of the chemical contaminated local drinking water supplies and caused a wide range of human health problems. While DuPont has never acknowledged health dangers suspected from PFOA exposure, it has reduced its use by 97 percent across the product line.
PFOA, which is found in the bloodstream of almost every American sampled in studies, has been shown to cause brain tumors in rats and mice and is considered a “likely carcinogen” by EPA’s Science Advisory Board. The chemical had been a staple in the production of Teflon-based products such as oil-resistant paper packaging, stain- and water-repellent textiles, non-stick cookware, architectural coatings and assorted electronics parts. It remains unclear if DuPont will be able to manufacture a PFOA-free version of Teflon after phasing out the chemical.