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The Toxic Truth About A New Generation of Nonstick and Waterproof Chemicals

Ten Years After Teflon Scandal, Your Family’s Health Remains at Risk


Ten years ago, DuPont was forced to phase out a key chemical in making Teflon, after revelations that for nearly 45 years the company covered up evidence of its health hazards, including cancer and birth defects. But a new EWG investigation finds that the chemicals pushed by DuPont and other companies to replace the Teflon chemical and similar perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs - already in wide use in food wrappers and outdoor clothing - may not be much - if at all - safer.

EWG analysts examine in detail the poisoned legacy of DuPont and the toxic truth about the Teflon chemical, known as C8 or PFOA, and the secrecy surrounding the safety of replacement chemicals.

Click here to read the full report: Poisoned Legacy - Ten Years Later, Chemical Safety and Justice for DuPont's Teflon Victims Remain Elusive.

The truth about this family of chemicals emerged only after DuPont was hit with lawsuits for poisoning drinking water for tens of thousands of people in West Virginia and Ohio. DuPont paid a record $16.5 million fine for hiding the alarming truth that C8/PFOA chemicals were linked to cancer and birth defects. DuPont promised to phase the chemical out by the end of this year but the company continues to hide behind confidentiality and trade secrets to keep the public in the dark.

"We are deeply troubled that families have no way of knowing if they are being exposed to these chemicals in their own homes," said Bill Walker, EWG consultant and co-author of the report. "DuPont continues to hide the truth about the health concerns of these new replacement chemicals."

The replacement chemicals are persistent in the environment and body and widely used in many consumer products, including outdoor clothing and food packaging.

EWG has released a new consumer guide today to help people who want to avoid the new nonstick chemicals, found on waterproof jackets, running shoes, microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes.

According to the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, PFCs contaminate the blood of virtually every American alive today. They are found in animals in the most remote corners of the world, and lab tests have found that they are even passed to babies still in the womb.

"We can't shop our way out of this problem," said Dave Andrews Ph.D., a senior scientist at EWG and coauthor of the report. "PFCs are used too often and too widely in many consumer products. They have been associated with host of health problems including kidney and testicular cancer, high cholesterol and obesity."

More than 200 scientists from around the world have signed a consensus statement, released today, that sounds the alarm about the dangers of the new PFCs and that urges consumers to avoid them. The peer-reviewed science journal Environmental Health Perspectives has published the study, which can be found here.

One reason DuPont has gotten away with its egregious behavior is the nation's outdated and badly broken chemical safety law, which has failed to regulate the chemical industry. Congress is considering several competing bills that would update the 1976 law, but only one proposal -- the Boxer-Markey bill -- would take the major step of ensuring Americans are protected from toxic chemicals like C8 and companies like DuPont.

"PFCs are a poster child for real reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act," said Renee Sharp, EWG's director of research. "Under the nation's broken chemical law, these and other dangerous chemicals are allowed on the market without proof of safety. Congress has an opportunity to act now to safeguard the public from dangerous chemicals."

Congress must learn from the tragedy of C8 and pass an effective chemical safety law that protects public health, not the chemical industry's profits. In its new report, EWG lays out its recommendations to Congress to protect Americans from the hazards of PFCs and all other dangerous chemicals.

In the meantime, EWG suggests the following for consumers who want to avoid the new generation of PFCs:

  • Find products that haven't been pre-treated and skip optional stain treatment on new carpets and furniture. Many of these coatings are made with PFCs.
  • Cut back on fast food and greasy carryout food. These foods often come in PFC-treated wrappers.
  • Do your research, especially when buying outdoor gear, and choose clothing that doesn't carry Gore-Tex or Teflon tags.
  • Be wary of all fabrics labeled stain- or water-repellent, even when they don't carry a recognizable brand tag.
  • Avoid non-stick pans and kitchen utensils. Opt for stainless steel or cast iron instead.
  • Pop popcorn the old-fashioned way - on the stovetop. Microwaveable popcorn bags are often coated with PFCs on the inside.
  • Choose personal care products without "PTFE" or "fluoro" ingredients. Use EWG's Skin Deep to find safer choices. Avoid using Oral-B Glide floss, which is made by Gore-Tex.

The Environmental Working Group is a community 30 million strong, working to protect our environmental health by changing industry standards.

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