For Immediate Release
UCLA study: U.S. Women at Greater Risk from Teflon Chemical
Infertility Jumps Dramatically Among Those With High Exposures
WASHINGTON - A major new study published yesterday in Human Reproduction, a
European reproductive medicine journal, has found that pregnant women
and women of child-bearing age in the United States are at greater risk
than previously thought for infertility and reproductive problems as
result of exposure to the toxic Teflon chemical PFOA (perfluorooctanoic
Analyzing data from about 1,240 women from a well-known Danish
longitudinal study initiated in 1996, a team of scientists based at the
University of California-Los Angeles has found that women with elevated
blood levels of PFOA experienced more difficulties in conceiving and
were twice as likely to be diagnosed with infertility as women with
lower PFOA body burdens. For women with more than 3.9 parts per billion
(ppb) of PFOA in their bodies, the chances of conceiving were
"These findings are quite alarming, but not completely unexpected
given the complete lack of health protections from chemicals like
PFOA," said Environmental Working Group (EWG) Senior Scientist Olga
Naidenko, Ph.D. "Until we reform the nation's chemical laws, we should
expect to discover more and more links between chemical exposures and
serious health conditions like infertility, childhood cancer, learning
disabilities and asthma."
"The UCLA team's findings provide important new evidence that
drastic declines in fertility rates in both the U.S. and Europe in
recent decades may be linked to exposure to toxic chemicals, including
PFOA, " Naidenko said. "These alarming findings reinforce the need for
strict regulation of PFOA and related chemicals, as well as other
industrial chemicals whose impact on humans and the environment may be
subtle but ultimately devastating."
The chemical PFOA is a member of a class of industrial chemicals
known as perfluorochemicals (PFCs). Chemicals in the PFC class are
found in a wide range of consumer products, including water, stain and
grease repellants, cookware, food wrap, carpeting, furniture and
clothing. Products containing PFCs are marketed under such trade names
as Teflon, Scotchguard, Stainmaster and Goretex.
A June 2008 study by the Environmental Working Group entitled
Credibility Gap: Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging and DuPont's
Greenwashing: EWG's Guide to PFCs contains a downloadable consumer
guide to consumer products that contain PFCs and other advice on how to
avoid products containing the chemical.
Studies by EWG and other scientists have demonstrated that PFOA
exposure begins in the womb. EWG's benchmark study, Body Burden: The
Pollution in Newborns, an analysis of umbilical cord blood, found 287
industrial chemicals and pollutants in 10 newborns, among them PFOA and
EWG's studies dovetail with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention investigations that detected PFOA in the bodies of nearly
all Americans over 12, with average levels of 3.9 ppb. The chemical has
contaminated drinking water, food, and surface and ground water in at
least 11 states.
In the human body, PFOA is extraordinarily persistent, accumulating
100-fold and detectable for years, with the potential to act through a
broad range of toxic mechanisms to pose potential harm to numerous
organs. Research has shown that PFOA can disrupt fetal development,
hormonal function and the immune system and increase the risk of heart
disease and cancer. Contamination of the food and water supply has the
potential to damage the reproductive systems of a large number of women
of child-bearing age nationwide.
EWG's work has resulted in an international effort to phase out use
of PFOA and legal victories against major manufacturers of the chemical.
Yet more comprehensive protections are critical to protect the
public from industrial pollutants. Harmful human exposures to
industrial toxins such as PFOA and PFCs are a consequence of weak legal
safeguards, particularly the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which
grandfathered 62,000 chemicals and allowed industry to bring 20,000
more chemicals into the marketplace with little nor no data to support
their safety. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has lacked the
legal power and funding to test the vast majority of man-made chemicals
that, like PFOA, may turn out to be reproductive toxicants or trigger
other serious diseases and conditions.
EWG is urging Congress to overhaul and modernize U.S. policy on
man-made toxins by adopting policy principles similar to those included
in the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act championed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Sen.
Barbara Boxer, and Rep. Henry Waxman. The Kid-Safe bill would place the
burden on chemical companies to prove that their products are safe
before they enter the marketplace.
Earlier this month, in the waning days of the Bush administration,
EPA made plans to issue an emergency health advisory for tap water
polluted with PFOA. The advisory, if adopted without change by EPA,
would set a non-binding standard of .4 micrograms per liter for PFOA.
According to an EWG analysis, such a standard would effectively allow a
significant level of pollution and discourage cleanup of PFOA
contamination in tap water in at least 9 states.
The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.