Q: What is Teflon?
A: Teflon is a DuPont brand name and registered trademark for a non-stick, stain-resistant material used in cooking, apparel, automotive, household, personal care, and industrial applications. Teflon is not a chemical.
Q: Has there been any recent news about the safety of Teflon?
A: Recently, the safety of Teflon coated cookware has been called into question. A class-action lawsuit brought against DuPont alleges that Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) is released when Teflon-coated cookware is heated above certain very high temperatures. The complaint is centered on DuPont's failure to warn consumers about the dangers of PFOA exposure. DuPont maintains that Teflon does not contain PFOA and that Teflon-coated cookware is safe when used properly. This is neither a personal injury case, nor have any injuries due to PFOA exposure been reported thus far.
Also, in December 2005, DuPont agreed to pay $16.5 million to settle alleged violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act, for failure to report information about the substantial risk of PFOA. The violations alleged by the EPA appear to be primarily concerned with the potential occupational and industrial hazards related to PFOA exposure. The recent settlement between DuPont and the EPA does not concern ordinary consumer use of Teflon-coated cookware or other Teflon-based products.
Q: Have there been any reports of health effects associated with Teflon use?
A: The only health effect reported by Teflon-maker Dupont is a condition called "polymer fume fever." This condition occurs when Teflon-coated cookware is heated to abnormally high temperatures (e.g. above 500º F or 260º C) and fumes are emitted. Temporary flu-like symptoms can occur 4 to 8 hours after exposure, but disappear after 48 hours with no necessary treatment.
Q: What is Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)?
A: PFOA is a man-made chemical that does not occur naturally in the environment. Companies use PFOA to make substances called fluoropolymers. Consumer products made with fluoropolymers include non-stick cookware (such as Teflon-coated cookware), and breathable, all-weather clothing.
Q: Is PFOA safe?
A: Studies indicate that PFOA can cause developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still investigating any potential dangers of PFOA in humans. The EPA has noted that PFOA is very persistent in the environment and is found at very low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general population.
Q: How does PFOA exposure occur?
A: While the EPA has noted that PFOA exposure is potentially nationwide, the EPA does not yet have a full understanding of how exposure occurs in the general population.
Q: Have there been instances of widespread exposure to PFOA that lead to cancer?
A: Yes. PFOA was released into the environment from a DuPont factory and entered the water supply in Ohio and West Virginia, causing increased rates of cancer in the exposed population. For other violations of federal environmental protection laws by DuPont and other companies, visit the EPA's Enforcement page. Several states have initiated their own investigations into PFOA and its levels in the environment.
Q: Should I stop using Teflon-coated cookware or other products made with fluoropolymers?
A: At the present time, the EPA does not believe that there is any reason for consumers to stop using consumer or industrial related products that contain PFOA.
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