Sign up to receive email updates, action alerts & health tips from EWG. [Privacy]

EPA Tilts Risk Document on Teflon Chemical in DuPont's Favor

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, January 12, 2005

WASHINGTON — EWG today criticized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) draft risk assessment on the toxic Teflon chemical, PFOA, as a post-election tilt toward DuPont. The Agency ignored its own science panel's guidance and internal industry research with today's assessment of the human health risks from the Teflon chemical. (Read EWG analysis)

In March 2004, the EPA's Scientific Advisory Panel instructed the EPA that when assessing the family of chemicals that include this Teflon ingredient, the Agency had to consider that several types of cancers, including testicular and pancreatic cancers, are relevant to humans.

The Agency ignored the panel's instruction in today's risk assessment, which is available at www.ewg.org.

And, the Agency ignored its internal guidelines (PDF document) on defining cancer potential. The guidelines require that when just one of five criteria for causing cancer is met, a chemical should be considered carcinogenic. The Teflon chemical meets three of those five criteria.

Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group (EWG), said, "There's a big difference between sound science and tilted science, and at every turn in this important process, EPA officials favored DuPont. We don't know if DuPont lobbyists played a role or if these were just Agency mistakes. But for those who were expecting a thorough and fair review, this is a huge disappointment."

In addition to selectively ignoring basic science related to cancer, the Agency neglected to include human health data showing that people with high levels of this Teflon chemical in their blood had higher cholesterol rates — a widely known risk factor for heart attack and stroke. (DuPont study | Italian study)

Cook noted that the EPA health assessment was released 24 hours after DuPont released its own study showing no health effects associated with the Teflon chemical.

"Compared to where this Agency started on this subject, it's hard to see how EPA's new direction will lead it to protect the public from this chemical," Cook said.

DuPont made over $330 million in the third quarter of 2004 alone, with Teflon as one of the company's marquee products.

Studies by 3M and DuPont scientists have linked the Teflon chemical to four types of cancer (Cancer Study 1987 PDF, 23MB) | Cancer Study 1994), immune system suppression (Link) and risk of heart attack and stroke (Link PDF, 11MB). Last summer, a study by the New York State Department of Health showed the Teflon chemical in the blood of people on four continents. (Link)

The EPA is now in court against DuPont for illegally suppressing health and water pollution studies over the past 20 years. The Agency is also investigating how this chemical has entered the bloodstream of over 95 percent of Americans.

The Teflon chemical never breaks down in the environment (Link).


# # #


RELATED LINKS

PFOA Science Analysis of EPA Risk Assessment

EPA's Draft Risk Assessment (PDF document)

Meeting Minutes of the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (PDF document)


EPA TAKES HEALTH THREAT SERIOUSLY

E.P.A. Orders Companies to Examine Effects of Chemicals
Jennifer 8 Lee, The New York Times, April 15, 2003

According to a risk assessment by the E.P.A., the estimated range of exposure for human beings [to PFOA], based on rat studies, overlapped with what the E.P.A. deemed unacceptable for toxic substances.

The E.P.A. is requiring the chemical industry to conduct more research on the relationship between perfluorinated acids and fluorotelomer alcohols, as well as provide information as to where and how much the alcohols are used.

 

EPA Probes Widely Used Chemical; Compound May Pose Health Risk to Women and Young Girls
Eric Pianin, Washington Post, April 15, 2003

There has been growing concern about the effects of this compound for several years, but yesterday's announcement suggested the government is taking the problem more seriously and eventually might regulate the chemical.

EPA officials became highly concerned late last year after reviewing a study by 3M, which once manufactured PFOA.

...As part of its action, the EPA formally released a preliminary risk assessment, raising concerns about the potential links between PFOA and reproductive and developmental problems in women.

 

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) Investigation Intensified: Serious Health Concerns
EPA Press Release, April 14, 2003

"To ensure consumers are protected from any potential risks, the Agency will be conducting its most extensive scientific assessment ever undertaken on this type of chemical," said Stephen L. Johnson, Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances. "Today's announcement puts in place rigorous regulatory and scientific steps that will lead to a better understanding of PFOA. This priority scientific review will guarantee that any future regulatory action on PFOA is protective of public health and supported by the best scientific information."

... Because there remains considerable scientific uncertainty regarding the potential risks from PFOA, it is important to develop additional data to determine if subsequent steps are necessary to protect public health. These data include use and production volume data, information on chemical and product degradation, and additional monitoring of PFOA levels in the environment. The additional data will be used to reduce the scientific uncertainties in the risk assessment, to better understand the potential sources in the environment, and to identify potential exposure pathways.

 

Chemical Might Pose Health Risk to Younger Women and Girls
Jennifer 8 Lee, The New York Times, March 29, 2003

A common industrial chemical used to produce Teflon might pose health risks for young girls and women of childbearing age, an internal report by the Environmental Protection Agency has found.

Agency scientists are concerned because the chemical, ammonium perfluorooctanoate, accumulates in human blood and demonstrates toxic properties. In September, the agency initiated a priority review under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which can be invoked to ban chemicals that pose significant risk of cancer, gene mutations or health defects.

...A chemical related to C-8, used in the fabric protector Scotchgard, was voluntarily pulled from production by the 3M company in 2000 under pressure from the E.P.A. Since then, 3M has ceased production of perfluorochemicals. DuPont, which had been a longtime customer of 3M's C-8, began producing it in Fayetteville, N.C., and uses it in a number of factories around the country.


REFERENCES

  1. Cook JC, Hurtt ME, Frame SR, Biegel LB. 1994. Mechanisms of extrahepatic tumor induction by peroxisome proliferators in Crl:CD BR(CD) rats. Toxicologist 14: 301. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi
    ?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=11222872
    )
  2. Kannan et al. 2004 Perfluorooctanesulfonate and related fluorochemicals in human blood from several countries. Environ Sci Technol. 38(17):4489-95. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?
    cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15461154
    )
  3. Sibinski, LJ. 1987. Two-Year oral (diet) toxicity/carcinogenicity study of fluorochemical FC-143 (perfluorooctane ammonium carboxylate) in rats. Report prepared for 3M, St. Paul, Minnesota by Riker Laboratories Inc. Study No. 0281CR0012; 8EHQ-1087-0394, October 16, 1987.
  4. Yang, Q et al. Potent suppression of the adaptive immune response in mice upon dietary exposure to the potent peroxisome proliferator, perfluorooctanoic acid. Int Immunopharmacol 2(2-3): 389-97. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi
    ?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=11811941
    )
  5. York, RG. 2002. Oral (gavage) two-generation (one litter per generation) reproduction study of ammonium perfluorooctanoate (APFO) in rats. Report prepared for 3M, St. Paul, MN by Argus Research (Horsham, PA). Sponsor's Study No. T-6889.6. AR226-1092. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.