EPA: Newer Nonstick Compounds ‘Just as Toxic’ as Others

EPA: Newer Nonstick Compounds ‘Just as Toxic’ as Others
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Newer nonstick compounds that were supposed to be safer than previous ones may be just as toxic, even in minuscule amounts, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study released on November 14 shows. [1]

First, here is some background information straight from the EPA about the chemicals that will be mentioned in this article.

“Federal, state, tribal, and local governments are working together to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment. PFAS are man-made chemicals used in a wide range of products because of their ability to repel water, grease, and oil.

While PFOA and PFOS are the two most extensively produced and studied chemicals in the group, EPA is asking for public comment on draft toxicity assessments for GenX chemicals and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) to increase the amount of information the public has on other PFAS.”

GenX is a trade name for a technology that is used to make high performance fluoropolymers (e.g., some nonstick coatings) without the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

PFBS is a replacement chemical for PFOS, a chemical that was voluntarily phased out by its U.S. manufacturers …”

GenX chemicals and PFBS are both forms of PFAS.

The report suggests that exposure to very low levels of GenX chemicals can be dangerous. What’s more, two compounds from the same family that have already been removed from manufacturing in the U.S. have been found to be dangerous at levels lower than 100 parts per trillion (ppt).

Federal toxicology officials say the 2 of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, are significantly more harmful than previously realized. In a confidential e-mail released earlier in 2018 via open-records laws, an unidentified White House official called the discovery “a potential public relations nightmare.” [1] [2]

This is the first time the EPA has taken a closer look at the so-called GenX family of nonstick coatings, which have been turning up in dangerous levels in drinking water nationwide.

Residents and public health officials in North Carolina are particularly concerned as these chemicals have shown up in the water supply of thousands of people who live downstream of a Chemours Co. plant that produces the compound outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Actually, drinking water contamination has been the main concern cited by public health officials and regulators in relation to the family of compounds.

And how might these compounds affect you? Well, oral exposure to PFAS has the potential to affect the kidneys, blood, immune system, liver, and developing fetuses, the EPA study shows. The report states that the findings “are suggestive of cancer.”

It goes on to say:

“Toxicity is only 1 piece of information that public officials consider when determining whether there is a risk to public health. Other factors, such as exposure, must also be considered.” [1]

David Andrews, Ph.D., senior scientist at Environmental Working Group (EWG), said: [2]

“It is alarming that, 12 years after DuPont, 3M, and other companies, under pressure from EPA, began phasing out PFOA and PFOS, we find that replacements like GenX are nearly as hazardous to human health.

EPA scientists have given us valuable new information here, but the study’s real significance is to show that the entire chemical regulatory system is broken. EPA has allowed hundreds of similar chemicals on the market without safety testing, and it’s urgent that the agency evaluate the risk Americans face from all of these chemicals combined.”

The EWG’s own testing shows that the so-called safer compounds are nearly as toxic as those they replaced, even at very tiny doses.

Even if you don’t use non-stick cookware, you are likely being exposed to these compounds anyway, as they are also used as non-stick coatings on food wrappers, outdoor clothing, and many other products.  A 2017 EWG report found GenX compounds in food wrapping samples from 27 different fast food chains (just another reason to avoid fast food).

Andrews said:

“The system has it backwards: Instead of putting the burden of proof on EPA to show that chemicals like GenX are safe, the chemical industry should be responsible for testing its products for safety before they’re put on the market. This broken system has enabled DuPont and other companies to contaminate nearly everyone on Earth, including babies in the womb, with these chemicals.”


[1] Associated Press

[2] Environmental Working Group

The Intercept