Questioning the Safety of Teflon

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now questioning the safety of a number of items that we use on a daily basis. It seems that a number of chemicals used in the production of “nonstick, water-repellent, and grease- resistant products” — such as nonstick cookware, nail polish, and even raincoats — are presenting in people’s blood. The danger is that these chemicals are potentially carcinogenic.

 However, while the majority of an advisory group for the EPA — which reviewed data compiled by the EPA — agreed while it was likely that “perfluorooctanoic acid” (PFOA) was carcinogenic, not everyone came to the same conclusion.

 The EPA will now review what the advisory board had to say and will release a report regarding the risks — if there are any — associated with PFOA. If need be, they will begin to regulate the use of this potentially dangerous chemical. What the EPA is largely concerned about is the release of PFOA into the air during the manufacturing of certain items. They will also look into both an antecedent chemical — which can break down into PFOA — and whether or not any parts of the chemical can enter into our bodies when used during routine household use.

 “The information that we have available does not indicate that the routine use of household products poses a concern,” said Susan Hazen, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxics.

 One major producer, DuPont — which is, in fact, the only U.S. manufacturer of PFOA — has noted that they will “virtually eliminate” the chemical by 2015 and have already started taking the necessary steps to curb its production.

 They did, however, note that regular use of products containing these chemicals does not pose a health concern. “We do not see any evidence that these products are breaking down in people’s homes,” said Robert Buck, a chemist at DuPont, in regard to products such as stain- resistant carpeting that contains these chemicals.

 While the health effects of this chemical and how we ingest it into our bodies is still up in the air, various companies are trying to find better alternatives. A number of companies have phased it out as well. Unfortunately, no company has come up with a healthy alternative to the chemical as of yet.

 As more information becomes available, including any further reports from the EPA, we will keep you posted.

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