PFAS Chemicals

‘Forever Chemicals’: Teflon, Scotchgard and the PFAS Contamination Crisis

In 1946, DuPont introduced Teflon to the world, changing millions of people’s lives – and polluting their bodies. Today, the family of compounds including Teflon, commonly called PFAS, is found not only in pots and pans but also in the blood of people around the world, including 99 percent of Americans. PFAS chemicals pollute water, do not break down, and remain in the environment and people for decades. Some scientists call them “forever chemicals."

Since 2001, when news erupted about the contamination of drinking water near a Teflon plant in West Virginia, EWG has been in the forefront of research and advocacy on PFAS chemicals. Links to much of our work follow. For a compelling overview of the contamination in West Virginia and its aftermath, see the acclaimed documentary film The Devil We Know, available on multiple streaming platforms.

A robust body of research reveals a chemical crisis of epic proportions. Nearly all Americans are affected by exposure to PFAS chemicals in drinking water, food and consumer products.

What are PFAS chemicals?

Per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS chemicals, are a family of thousands of chemicals used to make water-, grease- and stain-repellent coatings for a vast array of consumer goods and industrial applications. These chemicals are notoriously persistent in the environment and the human body, and some have been linked to serious health hazards.

What are the health effects of PFAS?

The two most notorious PFAS chemicals – PFOA, formerly used by DuPont to make Teflon, and PFOS, an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard – were phased out under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency after scientific evidence of serious health problems came to light. The manufacture, use and importation of both PFOA and PFOS are now effectively banned in the U.S., but evidence suggests the next-generation PFAS chemicals that have replaced them may be just as toxic. PFAS chemicals pollute water, do not break down and remain in the environment and in people for decades.

Studies have linked PFAS chemicals to:

  • Testicular, kidney, liver and pancreatic cancer.
  • Weakened childhood immunity.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Endocrine disruption.
  • Increased cholesterol.
  • Weight gain in children and dieting adults.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS are a class of environmentally persistent manmade chemicals that are used as water, grease and stain repellents in clothing and furniture, in industrial firefighting foam, and in the production of nonstick cookware.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Governors from 15 states, including many facing mounting contamination of drinking water sources from toxic perfluorinated chemicals, or PFAS, are urging Congressional leaders to include provisions in a must-pass defense spending bill that would require the federal government to monitor and clean up the pollution.

Read More
News Release
Monday, September 16, 2019

This year’s defense spending bill – the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA – now being considered by Congress, is an unprecedented chance to regulate the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, which have contaminated hundreds of public water systems nationwide.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Friday, September 13, 2019

Drinking water supplies at two Washington state Army installations are contaminated with extremely high levels of the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to Department of Defense data obtained by EWG under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read More
Testimonies & Official Correspondence
Friday, September 13, 2019

Drinking water supplies at seven Army installations in New York state are contaminated with elevated levels of toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to newly released Department of Defense data obtained by EWG under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read More
Testimonies & Official Correspondence
Thursday, September 12, 2019

Drinking water supplies at a Minnesota National Guard facility were contaminated with elevated levels of highly toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to newly released Department of Defense data obtained by EWG under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read More
Testimonies & Official Correspondence
Thursday, September 12, 2019

Drinking water supplies at two Army installations in Oklahoma are contaminated with toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to newly released Department of Defense data obtained by EWG under the Freedom of Information Act

Read More
Testimonies & Official Correspondence
Thursday, September 12, 2019

Drinking water supplies at seven Army installations in Arizona are contaminated with the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to newly released Department of Defense data obtained by EWG under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read More
Testimonies & Official Correspondence
Thursday, September 12, 2019

Drinking water supplies at two Army installations in Rhode Island are contaminated with elevated levels of toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to newly released Department of Defense data obtained by EWG under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read More
Testimonies & Official Correspondence
Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Drinking water supplies at 10 Army installations in Oregon are contaminated with the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to newly released Department of Defense data obtained by EWG under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read More
News Release
Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Drinking water supplies at an additional 90 current and former Army and Army National Guard installations nationwide are contaminated with the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to newly released Department of Defense data obtained by EWG under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read More
News Release
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

For decades, 3M was a leading producer of the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS. As early as the 1950s, 3M’s own studies showed that PFAS chemicals built up in blood, and by the 1960s, 3M’s own animal studies showed the potential for harm. Yet 3M continued to produce PFAS chemicals without notifying its employees of the risks.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Thursday, September 5, 2019

Attached is a letter submitted by non-governmental organizations, to support House and Senate Armed Services Committee efforts to include several provisions related to per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in the National Defense Authori

Read More
Testimonies & Official Correspondence
Wednesday, August 28, 2019

For nearly 70 years, chemical companies like 3M and DuPont have known that the highly fluorinated chemicals called PFAS build up in our blood. They’ve known for almost that long that PFAS chemicals have a toxic effect on our organs.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Tuesday, August 27, 2019

As far back as 1950, studies conducted by 3M showed that the family of toxic fluorinated chemicals now known as PFAS could build up in our blood. By the 1960s, animal studies conducted by 3M and DuPont revealed that PFAS chemicals could pose health risks. But the companies kept the studies secret from their employees and the public for decades. Here is a timeline of internal memos, studies and other company documents detailing the two companies’ history of deception.

Read More
Reports & Consumer Guides
Thursday, August 22, 2019

A new peer-reviewed study refutes claims by the chemical industry that the next generation of toxic fluorinated compounds, or PFAS, is safer than two notorious PFAS chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases that were pulled off the market in the U.S.

Read More
News Release
Thursday, August 15, 2019

President Trump toured a Shell chemical plant in Pennsylvania Tuesday, supposedly to promote his economic agenda. According to reports, he went off script quite a bit – but one thing he definitely didn’t talk about was his administration’s record on chemical safety.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The recent discovery of fluorinated chemicals, or PFAS, in food packaging should serve as a reminder that our diets are as big a source as drinking water of these toxic compounds in our bodies.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Tuesday, July 30, 2019

When it comes to household waste, we all know the mantra: Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Defense Department will establish a new task force to address drinking water contamination from the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS at military facilities and in nearby communities, according to a news release by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

Read More
News Release

Pages

Subscribe to PFAS Chemicals