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.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

In yet another 11th-hour rollback of public health protections, political leaders at the Environmental Protection Agency overruled career scientists and watered down a major health assessment for one of the most toxic “forever chemicals” estimated to contaminate the drinking water for nearly 1 million Americans.

Read More
News Release
Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Newly released test data from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency show that more than 100 public water systems in the state are contaminated with the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

Read More
News Release
Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The FY 2021 omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress Monday night provides nearly $300 million for new investments to address the regulation and cleanup of the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

Read More
News Release
Friday, December 18, 2020

An eleventh-hour proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency would approve incineration and other disposal methods for some of the fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS that would neither destroy nor contain the toxic “forever chemicals.”

 

Read More
Key Issues:
News Release
Thursday, December 17, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Michael Regan as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, The New York Times reports. Regan, 44, currently North Carolina’s top environmental official, would be the second Black person to lead the agency charged with protecting public health and the environment, after Lisa Jackson, who headed the EPA during President Obama’s second term.

Read More
News Release
Wednesday, December 16, 2020

In his campaign’s environmental justice plan, President-elect Joe Biden made a historic commitment to tackle contamination from the toxic fluorinated “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. One critical promise in his plan is to designate the two most notorious PFAS chemicals – PFOA, formerly used to make DuPont’s Teflon, and PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard – as hazardous substances under the federal Superfund law.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Friday, December 11, 2020

A federal health agency is investigating whether exposure to the fluorinated "forever chemicals" called PFAS could affect the potential effectiveness and duration of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Read More
News Release
Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Today Amazon announced it will ban the toxic fluorinated “forever chemicals” known as PFAS from its Amazon Kitchen brand products.

Read More
Key Issues:
News Release
Monday, December 7, 2020

A House-Senate conference committee approved a final version of the Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, for 2020, which both houses will vote on before it goes to the White House for President Trump’s signature or veto.

Read More
News Release
Thursday, December 3, 2020

A House-Senate conference committee today approved a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021, which both houses will vote on before it goes to the White House for President Trump’s signature or veto.

Read More
News Release
Monday, November 30, 2020

The Environmental Protection Agency today released an "interim strategy" for addressing industrial discharges of the toxic fluorinated “forever chemicals” called PFAS. The strategy document encourages EPA officials, when issuing permits to industrial dischargers, to “consider” whether PFAS discharges should be limited but lacks any enforceable standards for such discharges.

Read More
News Release
Friday, November 20, 2020

In the wake of the Trump administration’s rollback of more than 100 federal environmental regulations, California has again showed leadership, with new laws to protect public health. In the past two years, EWG’s team in Sacramento shepherded numerous legislative proposals to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, with nearly every bill signed into law.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Monday, November 16, 2020

EWG submitted comments to California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee to recommend the prioritization of four per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), so

Read More
Testimonies & Official Correspondence
Monday, November 16, 2020

The Trump administration’s assault on science has been a disaster for children, according to a report in February from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Now the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris offers the possibility of reversing the damage done to children’s health under the Trump administration, with its many rollbacks of public health protections and disregard for the heightened risk toxic chemicals pose to kids.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Thursday, November 12, 2020

Toxic PFAS chemicals, notorious for contaminating drinking water supplies across the U.S., are harmful to nearly every human organ, and the immune system is particularly vulnerable. PFAS mixtures, which are used in a variety of consumer products, can be found in the body of nearly every American and in the developing fetus.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Monday, November 9, 2020

No candidate for president has ever pledged to make the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS a priority – until now.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Monday, October 26, 2020

The Big Bang of the nationwide “forever chemicals” crisis was the revelation in 2001 that PFOA, a toxic compound used to make Teflon, had contaminated the drinking water for 70,000 people near a DuPont factory in West Virginia. Pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency forced DuPont and other companies to phase out PFOA, and they agreed not to use it after 2015.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Thursday, October 22, 2020

It’s been 18 months since the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled its plan to address the crisis of the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, which a new peer-reviewed study by EWG scientists estimates have likely contaminated the drinking water of more than 200 million Americans.

Read More
News and Analysis
Article
Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A peer-reviewed study by scientists at the Environmental Working Group estimates that more than 200 million Americans could have the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS in their drinking water at a concentration of 1 part per trillion, or ppt, or higher. Independent scientific studies have recommended a safe level for PFAS in drinking water of 1 ppt, a standard that is endorsed by EWG.

Read More
News Release
Tuesday, October 13, 2020

If you’re pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, it’s likely you’re considering how to limit your exposure to toxic chemicals. After all, you no longer have just your health to think about, you also have that of your future child.

Read More
Children's Health
Article

Pages

Subscribe to PFAS Chemicals