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DuPont spin

Canaries in the Kitchen: DuPont spin

May 15, 2003

DuPont has repeatedly misled consumers about the safety of their products, publishing misleading information, obscuring important safety warnings, and intimidating bird-related websites which provide pet owners with warnings about the dangers Teflon poses to pet birds.

References

[1] DuPont 2001. University of Toronto Study and Cookware Safety. Accessed online at http://www1.dupont.com/NASApp/dupontglobal/corp/index.jsp? page=/content/US/en_US/news/position/cookware_safety.html. May 11 2003.

[2] DuPont 2003. "Consumer products help: Cookware safety. Will cooking fumes generated while cooking with non-stick cookware harm people or animals, especially pet birds?" Accessed online May 10 2003 from http:/www.teflon.com.

[3] Boucher M, Ehmler TJ, Bermudez AJ. 2000. Polytetrafluoroethylene gas intoxication in broiler chickens. Avian Dis 44:449-53.

[4] Stewart Bob. 2002. Personal communication with Dr. Jennifer Klein, Environmental Working Group. May 9, 2002.

[5] Stewart Bob. 2002. Personal email communication with Anne Morgan, Environmental Working Group. [date]

[6] Waritz, R.S. 1975. An industrial approach to evaluation of pyrolysis and combustion hazards. Environ Health Perspect 11:197-202.

[7] DuPont 2003. "Making a safe home for your bird," written by Peter S. Sakas. Accessed online May 8 2003 from http://www.dupont.com/teflon/newsroom/bird.html.

  • In a recent news release, DuPont claimed that its coating remains intact indefinitely at 500°F: "DuPont non-stick coatings will not begin to deteriorate until the temperature of the cookware reaches about 500 degrees F, (260 degrees C), and significant decomposition of the coating will occur only when temperatures exceed about 660 degrees F (340 degrees C). These temperatures alone are well above the normal cooking range" [1][2]. Experiences of consumers whose birds have died from fumes generated at lower temperatures show that this is not the case. In one case researchers at the University of Missouri documented the death of about 1,000 broiler chicks exposed to offgas products from coated heat lamps at 396°F [3]. In another case a bird died after its owner preheated a new Teflon-lined oven to 325°F [4][5].

     

  • DuPont also claims that human illness will be produced only in cases involving gross overheating: "In cases where non-stick coating is grossly overheated (any food would have long been burned to an inedible state at this point), fumes may produce temporary flu-like symptoms." [2]. Yet DuPont's own scientists have concluded that polymer fume fever in humans is possible at 662°F, a temperature easily exceeded when a pan is preheated on a burner or placed beneath a broiler, or in a self-cleaning oven [6].
  • Although DuPont has known of the particular susceptibility of birds to Teflon offgas products for decades, and the hazards Teflon poses to pet birds in the home, the company recently employed intimidation tactics to stop bird-related websites from discussing the toxicity of Teflon fumes to birds, impressing one webmaster to the point that he changed all mentions of "Teflon" in his public service messages on bird safety to "a product whose name I can no longer use due to its trademark."

    >>| Read a letter sent to a bird owner from DuPont
  • DuPont publicly acknowledges that Teflon can kill birds, but the company-produced public service brochure on bird safety discusses the hazards of ceiling fans, mirrors, toilets, and cats before mentioning the dangers of "PTFE" fumes at the bottom of the two-page brochure ("Teflon" is not mentioned) [7].