PFCs: Global Contaminants: Recommendations for Action on PFCs
The unique combination of prevalence, toxicity, and persistence that characterizes chemicals in the PFC family argues for expedited action by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to mitigate human exposures. We recommend that:
- EPA should require the phase-out of PFOA and industrial chemicals that break down into PFOA in the environment or the human body.
- EPA should expedite the review of all remaining PFCs and polyfluorochemicals, including fluoropolymers, and require the phase-out of those that are persistent or that break down into persistent PFCs.
- EPA should fully assess human health risks across the family of PFCs, considering the combined health effects of chemicals that exhibit common health harms and modes of action.
- CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) should adopt and earlier EWG proposal for long-term biomonitoring of PFCs in human blood to assess trends in exposure, which could increase for some PFCs even after a global ban, as the PFC family breaks down to its terminal degradation products (PFOA, PFOS, and others).
PFCs are highly toxic, extraordinarily persistent chemicals that pervasively contaminate human blood and wildlife the world over. This chemical tragedy has happened in large part because of a regulatory system that leaves the EPA with few tools to identify emerging pollution problems, or to anticipate and study the health effects or the extent of human exposure to any of the thousands of chemicals found in consumer products, including PFCs.
The Toxics Substances Control Act is so fundamentally broken that the statute needs to be rewritten. Revisions to the nation's toxic substance laws must include the following provisions:
- Industry must be required to prove the safety of a new chemical before it is put on the market.
- The EPA must have the unencumbered authority to request any and all new data on a chemical that is already on the market.
- The EPA must have the clear authority to suspend a chemical's production and sale if the data requested are not generated, or if they show that the chemical, as used, is not safe for the most sensitive portion of the exposed population.
- Chemicals that persist in the environment or bioaccumulate in the food chain must be banned.
- Chemicals found in humans, in products to which children might be exposed, in drinking water, food, or indoor air, must be thoroughly tested for their health effects in low dose, womb-to-tomb, multi-generational studies focused on known target organs, that include sensitive endpoints like organ function and cognitive development. Studies to define mechanisms of action (how a chemical harms the body) must also be conducted.
- The chemical industry must phase out the use of PFOA and other chemicals that break down to PFOA in the environment or the human body, including uses in Teflon, Stainmaster, and Zonyl paper protection products.
- The chemical industry must develop and make public analytical methods to detect all PFCs in the human body, and conduct biomonitoring studies to find the levels of their chemicals in the general population.
- The chemical industry must disclose the breakdown products and environmental persistence of all PFCs, including perfluoro- and polyfluoro- polymer products like Gore-Tex, and discontinue the manufacture of those that are persistent.
- Chemical manufacturers must fully disclose the PFC ingredients of their products to the public.
Although some exposures to PFCs are unavoidable - they have been found in food, air, and drinking water - you can choose to avoid many PFCs in future purchases of consumer products. Doing so will help reduce the impacts of the "PFC" economy on human health and wild animals. Here are some tips:
- Phase out the use of Teflon and other non-stick cookware and other equipment that is heated in your home. If you can afford to replace it now, do so. When heated to high temperatures, Teflon and produccts with other non-stick PFC coatings emit fumes that can be harmful.
- Do not use Teflon or non-stick cookware in your home if you have pet birds. In fact, avoid any kitchen equipment that contains Teflon or other non-stick components that are heated to high temperature during use. Fumes from these materials can quickly kill birds.
- When you purchase furniture or carpet, decline optional treatments for stain and dirt resistance, and find products that have not been pre-treated with chemicals by questioning the retailers. Most of these chemical treatments contain PFCs that might contaminate your home and family.
- Avoid buying clothing that bears a Teflon label or other indication that it has been coated for water, stain, or dirt repellency. Many of these coatings are PFCs. By buying alternatives you will help shrink the PFC economy and the associated global contamination.
- Minimize packaged food and greasy fast foods in your diet. These can be held in containers that are coated with PFCs to keep grease from soaking through the packaging. PFCs are used in a wide variety of containers, including french fry boxes, pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags.
- Avoid buying cosmetics and other personal care products with the phrase "fluoro" or "perfluoro" on the ingredient list. Among products that might contain PFCs are lotions, pressed powders, nail polish, and shaving cream.