EWG News and Analysis
The latest from EWG’s staff of experts >>
Cheatsheet: Perfluorochemicals (PFCs)
What is it?Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are widely-used water, grease and stain repellents. They're found in carpets and on clothes, on fast-food wrappers, and on the inner lining of pet food bags. You might know them as Teflon, Scotchgard, Stainmaster and Gore-Tex. They pollute water, are persistent in the environment, and remain in the human body for years.
What are the possible health effects?PFCs have been associated with cancer, reproductive problems, birth and developmental defects, and (recently) with immune system suppression.
How do I minimize my exposure?
- Forgo the optional stain treatment on new carpets and furniture, and find products that haven't been pre-treated.
- Choose clothing that doesn't carry Teflon or Scotchgard tags and isn't labeled stain- or water-repellent.
- Avoid non-stick pans if you can. Opt for stainless steel or cast iron instead.
- Cut back on greasy packaged and fast foods, which often come in treated wrappers.
- Some personal care products contain PFCs. Check ingredient labels for anything beginning with perfluoro.
Where can I learn more?
- Learn more about PFCs as global contaminants.
- Ask EWG takes on Scotchgard in clothes and Stainmaster treatments on carpets.
- PFCs have been associated with lowered birth weight and immune suppression.
- California may ban the use of PFCs on food packaging.
- PFCs may concentrate in breastmilk.
Photo by Jenny P.