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Chemical in Teflon a likely carcinogen
The Associated Press
DOVER, Del. — A group of scientific advisers to the Environmental Protection Agency voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a recommendation that a chemical used in the manufacture of Teflon and other nonstick and stain-resistant products should be considered a likely carcinogen.
The approval of the EPA's Science Advisory Board is conditioned on minor clarifications being made to a draft report submitted by a review panel, but no major changes will be made to the panel's findings on perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as C-8.
PFOA is used in the manufacture of fluoropolymers. In addition to Teflon cookware, fluoropolymers are used by the aerospace, transportation, textile and electronics industries in clothing, car fuel systems, computer chips and telecommunications equipment, electronic wiring and other products. The chemical also can be a byproduct in the manufacture of fluorotelomers, which are used in firefighting foams and in textiles, paper and other surfaces to make them stain-, oil- and water-resistant.
Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont Co., owner of the Teflon brand, is the sole producer of PFOA in North America.
Some members of the review panel disagreed with the majority view that the chemical should be classified as a "likely carcinogen," a finding that went beyond the EPA's own determination that there was "suggestive evidence" from animal studies that PFOA and its salts are potential human carcinogens.
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is free to accept the science advisory board's recommendations regarding PFOA, or to reject them.
The EPA will use the report "as well as all new information that becomes available, to formulate the next steps in our continuing assessment of these chemicals," said Oscar Hernandez, director of the risk-assessment division in the EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics.
PFOA has contaminated the bloodstreams of most Americans and is polluting the environment throughout much of the world. In laboratory animals exposed to high doses, PFOA causes liver cancer, reduced birth weight, immune suppression and developmental problems. In humans, the effects of lower doses are unknown, but it is transferred to fetuses in the womb.
Last month, the EPA asked the eight U.S. companies that use PFOA to virtually eliminate public exposure to the chemical. The companies were expected to comply with the voluntary measure, cutting releases from their plants and products by 95 percent over the next four years and completely soon after that. The move was is considered the EPA's most aggressive effort to restrict an industrial compound in more than 15 years, when it enacted a regulation banning asbestos.
The seven other companies that use PFOA and its related substances are 3M/Dyneon; Arkema; AGC Chemicals/Asahi Glass; Ciba Specialty Chemicals; Clariant; Daikin and Solvay Solexis.
Material from The Seattle Times archives was used in this report
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