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

PFC Dictionary

PFC Dictionary

Monday, November 13, 2006

Perfluorinated chemicals or Perfluorochemicals (PFC): A chemical family consisting of a carbon backbone fully surrounded by fluorine, which makes them impervious to heat, acid or other forces that typically break down chemical compounds. Sometimes referred to as 'Teflon' chemicals.

Fluorotelomer: A range of chemicals with a similar fluoride carbon backbones but different functional heads. These are the chemicals applied to food packaging, stain resistant clothing, and carpet protection. Brand names used include Teflon, Zonyl, Stainmaster, Staindefender, Scotchgard.

PFOA: Perfluorooctanoic acid. Breakdown product of fluorotelomers and backbone of many DuPont products. Also used as a surfactant to produce PTFE, the Teflon in pans. Sometimes called C8.

PFOS: Perfluorooctanyl sulfate. Breakdown product of fluorotelomers that are based on 3M chemistry.

C8, et al: The range of chemicals that are identical to PFOA but with carbon backbones of varying length. PFOA/C8 has 8 carbons, C7 has 7, and so on. These are breakdown products of fluorotelomers.

PTFE: Polytetrafluoroetheylene. Polymer used for cookware and other non-stick applications. Brand names include Teflon and Silverstone. A physically expanded form of PTFE is used to make Gore-Tex. PFOA is an ingredient in the manufacture of PTFE.

Teflon: Teflon is a brand name, it is not a single chemical. Teflon can refer to PTFE or to a fluorotelomer or to any number of perfluorochemicals. Perfluorochemicals are often termed "Teflon" chemicals or as having "Teflon" chemistry.

Why are fluorotelomers important?

PFOA is used to make PTFE, the Teflon in pans. However, scientific evidence points to fluorotelomers as the main source of the PFOA and other perfluorinated chemicals in Americans' blood. That fluorotelomers on coated paper food packaging break down into PFOA and other chemicals is a separate problem from PTFE and cookware. This source of PFOA is one that DuPont cannot control by reducing emissions or impurities in its products.

Fluorotelomers breakdown within the body and in the environement to PFOA and similar chemicals. Once this happens, the breakdown chemicals never breakdown. They are the most persistent synthetic chemicals known to man. And once they are in the body, it takes decades to get them out - if you were exposed to no more. These chemicals from the breakdown of telomers (PFOA or C8, C7-12, PFOS,…etc.) are the perfluorochemicals of the current public health concern. They are toxic in humans with health effects from stroke and cancer to increased cholesterol. Although little PFOA can be found in the finished product, the breakdown of the fluorotelomers used on paper products and fabric treatments might explain how greater than 95% of Americans have these hyper-persistent, toxic chemicals in their blood.


diagram