Meet Perfluorooctanoic Acid

BPA Potential Health Effects: Altered development of the brain, early onset of puberty

Aka “PFOA,” “The Magician”

Biography

He’s a renegade magician, with a show-stopping “now you see it, now you don’t” trick. Although not present in non-stick pans themselves, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) can reappear as fumes when pans are overheated and the coating decomposes. But he’s got more than one trick. PFOA also shows up in grease-resistant food packaging, like french fry containers and pizza boxes, and then magically appears in the food. Once he makes an appearance, it’s hard to get rid of the guy; in terms of persistence in the environment, PFOA sticks around for ages and never breaks down.

How to avoid

1. There’s no sure-fire way to completely avoid PFOA or other PFCs until Congress passes legislation that will require chemical manufacturers to demonstrate that their products are safe before they end up in our furniture, cookware, and drinking water.

Until then...

2. Avoid stain-resistance treatments. Choose furniture and carpets that aren’t marketed as “stain-resistant,” and don’t apply finishing treatments such as Stainmaster®.

3. Choose clothing that doesn’t carry Teflon® or Scotchgard™ tags. This includes fabric labeled stain- or water-repellent. When possible, opt for untreated cotton and wool.

4. Replace your non-stick cookware (like Teflon™) with stainless steel. If you choose to continue using non-stick cookware, be very careful not to let it heat to above 450ºF. Discard products if non-stick coatings show signs of deterioration.

5. Stay away from greasy or oily packaged and fast foods, as the packages often contain grease-repellent coatings. Examples include microwave popcorn bags, french fry boxes, and pizza boxes.

6. Steer clear of personal care products made with Teflon™ or containing ingredients that include the words “fluoro” or ”perfluoro.” PFCs can be found in dental floss and a variety of cosmetics, including nail polish, facial moisturizers, and eye make-up.

Frequent hangouts

Grease-resistant coatings on food contact paper, stain repellent in carpets and other home furnishings, water repellant in outdoor clothing and equipment (tent and shoe/boot water repellant treatments), essential aid for making non-stick cookware, including Teflon™. Contaminated drinking water is a source of exposure.

Why he's dangerous

The EPA considers PFOA a likely human carcinogen. Scientists have also shown PFOA to alter development of mammary tissue in lab rats. In humans, PFCs including PFOA are also associated with low sperm counts, and thyroid disease.

Fun fact

Keep your bird out of the kitchen! Birds and their weak respiratory systems are no match for PFOA’s toxic fumes. Birds have been documented dropping dead after being exposed to “off-gassing” from non-stick products.

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