. . . this may seem like one of the biggest, if not the biggest, mistakes the chemical industry has ever made," said Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at the Environmental Working Group."We're talking about Teflon, Stainmaster, Gore-tex, Silverstone, So if you buy clothing that's coated with Teflon or something else that protects it from dirt and stains, those chemicals can absorb directly through the skin." According to the E.P.A. some of the highest C-8 levels were found in children.
DuPont has always known more about Teflon than it let on. Two years ago the epa fined the company $16.5 million—the largest administrative fine in the agency's history—for covering up decades' worth of studies indicating that pfoa could cause health problems such as cancer, birth defects, and liver damage. The company has faced a barrage of lawsuits and embarrassing studies as well as an ongoing criminal probe from the Department of Justice over its failure to report health problems among Teflon workers. One lawsuit accuses DuPont of fouling drinking water systems and contaminating its employees with pfoa. Yet it is still manufacturing and using pfoa, and unless the epa chooses to ban the chemical, DuPont will keep making it, unhindered, until 2015.
The Teflon era began in 1938, when a DuPont chemist experimenting with refrigerants stumbled upon what would turn out to be, as the company later boasted, "one of the world's slipperiest substances." DuPont registered the Teflon trademark in 1944, and the coating was soon put to work in the Manhattan Project's A-bomb effort. But like other wartime innovations, such as nylon and pesticides, Teflon found its true calling on the home front. By the 1960s, DuPont was producing Teflon for cookware and advertising it as "a housewife's best friend." Today, DuPont's annual worldwide revenues from Teflon and other products made with pfoa as a processing agent account for a full $1 billion of the company's total revenues of $29 billion.
Pg2. Read Article at Mother Jones
For now, DuPont is subject only to the epa's voluntary "stewardship" program, under which it has agreed to reduce pfoa emissions from products and factories by 95 percent by 2010 and 100 percent by 2015. DuPont says it is likely to meet those deadlines: In February, the company announced it had found a new technology that reduces by 97 percent the pfoa used in making Teflon and other coatings, and it has vowed to "eliminate the need to make, buy or use pfoa by 2015."
"It's interesting how DuPont says they're going to eliminate the 'need' to make, buy, or use pfoa," says Rick Abraham, an environmental consultant for the United Steelworkers, which represents workers at DuPont's plants. "It's a self-imposed need. They need it to make money. Are they going to stockpile it, make as much as they can by 2015? Given DuPont's history, that's very possible. They need to make public a time frame for annual production and have it subject to third-party verification." DuPont spokesman Dan Turner responds, "We're going to eliminate it, period." As for time frames, he says, "I can't get into specifics. I can only say we're moving as quickly as the technology allows."
Meanwhile, DuPont has been applying a protective layer of PR to the problem. Last year, caught in a flurry of bad publicity about fines and lawsuits, the company took out full-page newspaper ads. One stated, "Teflon® Non-Stick Coating is Safe." And, as if to flip the bird at workers' complaints, it ran an ad in Working Woman showing a female factory worker and declaring: "DuPont employees use their skills and talents to make lives better, safer and healthier." This year, DuPont plans to advertise its pfoa-lowering measures only in trade publications, perhaps because it's tricky to boast of reduced pfoa while also maintaining that the chemical is harmless. "No one is better than DuPont at greenwashing," says Joe Drexler of the Steelworkers' DuPont Accountability Project.
Possibly. Recall DuPont's 1990 "Ode to Joy" commercial, in which seals clapped, penguins chirped, and whales leapt to honor DuPont for using double-hull tankers to "safeguard the environment." The seals evidently didn't realize that a law passed after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill required double-hull tankers. The penguins probably didn't connect the ice melting under their flippers with DuPont's chlorofluorocarbons either. The company fought against regulating them right up until they were banned.
It is in such ads that corporate fantasies and our individual ones meet and agree to ignore unpleasantries. Corporations lie to us, sure, but we make it easy for them with the little lies we tell ourselves. Especially when it comes to our everyday conveniences, it's easier to accept the company line that there is no risk than it is to accept that authorities won't necessarily protect us from risk. Jim Rowe, president of the union local at DuPont's Chambers Works plants in New Jersey, told me that despite the science about birth defects among DuPont employees, many of his coworkers have convinced themselves that there's nothing to worry about: "When we took blood tests and interviewed them, they said they were told 'pfoa's not a problem—it's even in polar bears.'" Precisely. And even if DuPont (and companies that make pfoa in Europe and Asia) stopped producing and using the chemical tomorrow, the millions of pounds of it already on earth would remain in the environment and in our bodies "forever," says the ewg's Wiles. "By that we mean infinity."
Denial, avoidance, and magical thinking aren't new. Like Teflon, they're barriers that keep unpleasant things at bay, and like Teflon, they're entrenched deep inside us.
PFCs are found in the blood of more than 98% of Americans, and are often in children’s blood at higher levels than in adults’. They build up in the food chain and contaminate wildlife around the globe. EPA considers PFCs likely human carcinogens, and they are known to induce testicular and mammary cancers in animals. PFCs are also associated with impaired fetal development, altered male reproductive hormones, and effects on the liver, thyroid gland, and immune system.
By Sue Mueller
Jul 20, 2005,
- Timesonline.co.uk reports that DuPont is being sued over the alleged claim that Teflon causes cancer.
- Two law firms in Florida filed the lawsuit against DuPont, representing fourteen people in eight states who brought and used non-stick cookware.
- Non-stick cookware is made of Teflon, which is repellent to water and cooking oils and also tolerates medium high cooking temperatures.
- The lawsuit accuses that DuPont has failed to warn consumers of the dangers of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) allegedly contained in Teflon, according to the lawyers for the plaintiffs.
- Teflon is made from PFOA, which a scientific panel appointed by the US Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month said is "likely" to cause cancer in humans.
- PFOA is used in a myriad of household products including but not limited to, furniture, clothing, and cables.
- DuPont rejects the claim that Teflon causes cancer, saying that no PFOA is found in the Teflon-based non-stick coatings used for cookware.
- The Associated Press reports that Teflon cookware has brought DuPont licensing fees of more than $40 billion.
Question: I've heard nasty rumors regarding the treatment of carpet before it's sold and put into a house. I've heard that it's treated with some really bad chemicals, then rolled up and stored until sold. I'd really like to know what the carpet is treated with and what's the best thing to do.
Answer: Most carpets manufactured today are coated with a mixture of stain-resistant fluorochemicals sold under familiar brand names like Stainmaster, Scotchgard, and nearly anything advertised as "nonstick" or "water repellant." These coatings are effective at preventing stains, but at least one of the impurities and breakdown products (PFOA and similar chemicals) has been identified as a likely human carcinogen and associated with developmental harm in newborn lab animals. There are currently many studies underway looking at the specific effects on humans.
Thanks to a Center for Disease Control biomonitoring study, we know that more than 90% of Americans have PFOA in their blood, but how the chemical got there is still not completely understood. Most scientific consensus now points away from coated frying pans, though a recent study by the New York Department of Health detected PFOA coming off pans at normal use temperatures. Other possible sources include stain resistant coatings on furniture and carpeting, coatings on food products, and water supply contamination.
If you're still using Teflon-coated pans in your kitchen, take a look at our list of cooking alternatives. This is especially imperative if you have pet birds in the house, since "Teflon toxicosis" caused by fumes from nonstick pans can kill birds.
So what's being done about Teflon? Thanks in part to EWG's hard work on perfluorochemicals, in January 2006 the Environmental Protection Agency signed a voluntary agreement with eight companies to virtually eliminate new exposures of these chemicals by 2015. It is impossible to eliminate the old sources of contamination since the chemical will pollute the Earth for thousands of years thanks to its imperviousness to breaking down, but you can avoid new "stain-resistant" coated carpets and furniture, as well as coated paper products like popcorn bags and paper plates. And, by the way, if you do need to replace your aging carpet, limit your contact with the padding installed under it, as the foam can contain PDBEs, neurotoxic fire retardant chemicals.
-- while researching this subject I found this query :
"I have an antique style popcorn machine made to look antique, however new with an electric popper kettle that was coated with Teflon. The oil used for popping becomes so gummy and hard to clean that I made the mistake of using Easy-Off oven cleaner to do the job, which started a scenario resulting in complete removal of all Teflon with SANDPAPER down to bare metal. I went about this lengthy sanding operation because I had recalled seeing a teflon spray coating for pot/pan repair at Wal-Mart albeit 2 years ago. Thought I would just go get a can to do a refinishing...however now I cannot find this product anywhere. Help! The popcorn machine was about a $1000.00 purchase only used a few times."
This sounds like a smart person, doing a good job of relining their popcorn machine! On the face of it there is nothing wrong -- except the mixture of all the chemical based products that have become airborne and have by this time found a home in the workers body, their child's body their pets body -- we have been too trusting for too long. Teflon is a dangerous deadly slow killer, it invades the body, causes birth defects, its in the water and the air. It is a major pollutant.
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 26, 2006; A01
Eight U.S. companies, including giant DuPont Co., agreed yesterday to virtually eliminate a harmful chemical used to make Teflon from all consumer products coated with the ubiquitous nonstick material.
Although the chemical would still be used to manufacture Teflon and similar products, processes will be developed to ensure that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) would not be released into the environment from finished products or manufacturing plants.
PFOA -- a key processing agent in making nonstick and stain-resistant materials -- has been linked to cancer and birth defects in animals and is in the blood of 95 percent of Americans, including pregnant women. It has also been found in the blood of marine organisms and Arctic polar bears.
The voluntary pact, which was crafted by the Environmental Protection Agency, will force companies to reduce manufacturing emissions of PFOA by 95 percent by no later than 2010. They will also have to reduce trace amounts of the compound in consumer products by 95 percent during the same period and virtually eliminate them by 2015.
The agreement will dramatically reduce the extent to which PFOA shows up in a wide variety of everyday products, including pizza boxes, nonstick pans and microwave-popcorn bags.
While not as sweeping as the federal ban on DDT in 1972, yesterday's agreement is expected to have profound implications for public health and the environment. An independent federal scientific advisory board is expected to recommend soon whether the government should classify the chemical as a "likely" or "probable" carcinogen in humans, which could trigger a new set of federal regulations.
"The science is still coming in on PFOA, but the concern is there," said Susan B. Hazen, acting assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. "This is the right thing to do for our health and our environment."
The move, which 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, drew applause from environmental groups that have frequently criticized both the administration and DuPont.
"This is one of those days when the Environmental Protection Agency is at its best. With its announcement today, the EPA is challenging an entire industry to err on the side of precaution and public safety, and invent new ways of doing business," said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. "As harshly as we have singled out DuPont for criticism for its past handling of PFOA pollution, today we want to single out and commend the company and acknowledge its leadership going forward."
DuPont officials said they were confident they could alter manufacturing methods over the coming decade to contain PFOA exposure from products that generated $1 billion in sales for the company in 2004.
"It's important to do this because this is a persistent material in the environment, and it's at low levels in people's blood," said David Boothe, DuPont's global business director. To remove PFOA, he said, the company will subject some of its products to extra heat and will sometimes add a step in the manufacturing process. "We're going to push it really hard and take it as far as we can."
Scientific studies have not established a link between using products containing trace amounts of PFOA, such as microwave-popcorn bags or nonstick pans, and elevated cancer levels. Hazen said yesterday's announcement should "not indicate any concern . . . for consumers using household products" with such coatings.
Several other companies agreed yesterday to reduce public exposure to the chemical, including 3M Co., Ciba and Clariant Corp. But DuPont, which settled a class-action suit last year accusing it of contaminating drinking water in Ohio and West Virginia communities near its plant in Parkersburg, W.Va., has attracted the most public scrutiny over its PFOA use.
William Bailey III, who was born in 1981 with multiple birth defects while his mother, Sue, was working with the chemical at the Parkersburg plant, said he will "be watching" to see if the chemical giant complies with the new agreement.
"They're trying to save face," said Bailey, who is suing DuPont over his birth defects.