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PFOA Exposure Delays Development

Chemical Used in Teflon May Be Hazardous

WASHINGTON, DC -- May 2, 2003 -- Chemicals used to make non-stick cookware and protective finishes for clothing and furniture may be harmful to people, according to a preliminary report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The products involved include common household brands such as Teflon, Gore-Tex, Scotchguard, and Stainmaster. The offending chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid and derived salts such as ammonium perfluorooctanoate (referred to collectively as PFOA), are man-made and persist in the environment.

In experiments on rats, PFOA exposure delayed sexual development, and caused decreased body weight, reproductive problems, and deaths. Companies using PFOA in manufacturing have conducted studies concerning the substance's effects on their workers, but the EPA said that the results are inconclusive due to poor methodology.

The EPA estimated that the general US population has been exposed to PFOA, based on analyses of human serum samples and animal studies. Besides clothing, furniture, and house ware manufacturers, many other groups use PFOA in processing their products. These include the automotive, aerospace, chemical, electrical, and construction industries. PFOA may be released during product manufacturing, although its pathways are not completely understood. An additional PFOA source may be the breakdown of fluorinated telomers, small synthetic polymers used in fire fighting foams, and coatings on carpets, textiles, paper, and leather.

Environmental Working Group Looks at PFOA

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental research organization, has charged that Dupont, 3M, and other PFOA manufacturers knew decades ago that PFOA was present in human blood, and that it could have serious health consequences. The group issued its own report based on a review of 50,000 pages of regulatory studies and government documents obtained from the EPA; internal documents from DuPont and 3M; and an examination of a growing body of independent studies on the toxicity and environmental occurrence of PFOA.

Meanwhile, residents of Wood County, West Virginia, have sued Dupont, claiming that the company's plant released ammonium perfluorooctanoate, a salt in the PFOA group, into the community's drinking water (Charleston Gazette & Daily Mail, April 19, 2003). Judge George Hill of the state's 4th Circuit Court ordered Dupont to pay for the blood tests of residents who are concerned about PFOA exposure and their health.

Will the Government Regulate PFOA?

The EPA is receiving public comments about its report and PFOA until May 16, 2003. It will hold a public meeting on June 6, 2003, about PFOA's fate. Presently, the substance is not regulated, and environmental groups hope that this meeting will be a step towards restricting PFOA use.

At Brayton Purcell, we are concerned about environmental pollution and the exposure of workers and their families to unsafe chemicals. If you have been injured by exposure to a toxic substance, please feel free to contact us to learn about your legal options.

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