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EPA Science Panel Says Teflon Chemical 'Likely' Cause of Cancer

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, January 30, 2006

Majority Calls Widespread Pollutant "Likely Human Carcinogen"

UPDATE: On January 30, the EPA posted its outside panel's draft report suggesting that the Agency strengthen its study of the Teflon chemical PFOA and call it a "likely" human carcinogen. On February 15, the Agency will meet with its outside panel by phone to discuss this important recommendation. The meeting notice is available online at

http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-SAB/2006/January/Day-30/sab583.htm.

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For Immediate Release: January 30, 2006
Contact: EWG Public Affairs, (202) 667-6982

(WASHINGTON, Jan. 30) — Today, a panel of outside experts gave draft comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) saying that an indestructible, toxic chemical that pollutes nearly every American's blood is a "likely human carcinogen." The panel urged the agency to adopt stricter guidelines to protect human health, according to a majority of its members. This announcement follows news just last week that the EPA signed a voluntary agreement with the chemical's maker, DuPont, and seven other companies to reduce the chemical's use in products by 95 percent over the next five years and aim for total elimination of its use by 2015.

"This indestructible nonstick chemical meets the government's criteria of a 'likely human carcinogen,'" said Tim Kropp, senior scientist at Environmental Working Group (EWG). "We are pleased that the Science Advisory Board (SAB) concurred with many of the concerns we have raised about the hazards of PFOA. There is growing consensus that health officials should err on the side of precaution with any industrial chemical that ends up in human blood, but especially chemicals like PFOA that are toxic and indestructible. We applaud the EPA for reaching an agreement with industry to dramatically lower the amount of this chemical in popular consumer products, and we urge the agency to adopt a similarly strong stance to protect the public from possible health risks associated with this chemical."

Specifically, the EPA's outside expert panel told the agency to:

  • Consider immune and nervous system effects on animals in its study of possible human health risks; and
  • Use a more health-protective and scientifically valid approach to studying human health risks from the chemical.

Most of the experts on the panel called PFOA a "likely human carcinogen," not a "suggested human carcinogen," as the EPA had proposed.

Richard Wiles, EWG's senior vice president, called on the EPA to bar from any future relationship with any EPA advisory panel two SAB panel members who are scientific advisors to the chemical industry front group the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). The two panel members, Michael Kamrin and Ernest Abel, have consistently downplayed the toxicity of PFOA, in stark contrast to the concerns expressed by the majority of panel members.

Gilbert Ross, ACSH's medical director, was recently exposed as a convicted felon who served jail time for Medicaid fraud and perjury in the 1990s and lost his medical license in New York.

Teflon and other nonstick cookware; clothing and carpeting that have stain-repellent coatings; fast food packaging that repels grease and oil; cleaning products; cosmetics and many other consumer products are made with chemicals that break down into PFOA in our bodies.

This chemical pollutes over 95 percent of Americans' blood, including all 10 newborns surveyed in a study EWG commissioned last summer. PFOA never breaks down in the environment, so every molecule of it produced since the 1950s or earlier will forever be in our air, water and bodies. In animals, PFOA causes cancer, birth defects and other health problems.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. The group's five years' worth of research on PFOA and related chemicals is available at www.ewg.org/health.