April 3, 2003

PFCs: Global Contaminants: PFOA and other PFCs come from common products in every home

April 2003

Non-stick pans, furniture, cosmetics, household cleaners, clothing, and packaged food containers can all contain PFCs, many of which break down into PFOA in the environment or in the human body. The brand names are well-known: Teflon, Stainmaster, Scotchgard, SilverStone, and others. PFCs are also used in a vast array of industrial products and processes.

Teflon and PFOA: Teflon itself is not PFOA (C8), but PFOA is used to manufacture Teflon and is released to the air, along with other PFCs, when Teflon cookware is heated to broiling temperatures [Extract]. PFOA is also emitted to air and water at Teflon manufacturing plants.

Other common consumer products and PFOA (fluoropolymers and telomer alcohols): PFOA also comes from products designed to repel soil, grease, and water, including carpet and furniture treatments, food wraps, sprays for leather, shoes and other clothing, paints and cleaning products - and from products like shampoo and floor wax, where PFCs are used as surfactants. These PFC products include formulations like Stainmaster fabric protection and Zonyl paper protection, and are made with chemicals that break down into PFOA and related chemicals in the environment and inside the body. [Extract | Full Document]

Industrial pollution and PFOA: Chemical companies like DuPont and 3M have not been required by law to monitor or report emissions of PFOA, PFOS or other PFCs into air, water or landfills because the chemicals are completely unregulated—so all emissions are legal. Industry studies submitted to EPA provide the companies’ partial estimates of pollution loadings, but only for recent years and only from manufacturing plants, not from “downstream” industrial users. From these documents we know that tons of PFOA have been released annually as air and water pollution from DuPont and 3M plants in West Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota and Alabama; and from carpet, clothing, and paper industries in Georgia, North Carolina, and other places. In 1999 alone, DuPont released over 40 tons (86,806 pounds) of PFOA into the air and the Ohio River from its Washington Works Teflon production facility in West Virginia. The company now boasts of having reduced those loadings to 10 tons (20,168 pounds) in 2002.

3M’s Original Scotchgard and PFOA: Scotchgard products made by 3M before the year 2001 break down into PFOA, among other chemicals, in the environment [Extract | Full Document]. The Environmental Protection Agency forced 3M to alter its Scotchgard formulation because chemicals in the product were found to be toxic and persistent in the environment and the human body. The public record contains little information on the new Scotchgard formula. 3M is using PFBS, a sister chemical to PFOS, as a replacement to PFOS based chemistry for some products [Full document]. PFBS does not break down. If 3M's replacement chemistry is based on telomer alcohols, it likely breaks down into PFOA as well.

Other PFCs: PFOA is only one of many terminal breakdown compounds of household products that contain PFCs, and only one of 15 PFCs known to pollute human blood. Some other persistent compounds that come from consumer products and are found in human blood include PFOA's chemical "sisters" that are characterized by carbon chain lengths either longer or shorter than PFOA's 8-carbon chain. Another group of PFCs found in consumer products breaks down into PFOS-like chemicals, the perfluorinated sulfonates that formed the basis of 3M's original Scotchgard formulation.