In an article published on August 20, 2015 by the news provider Vice News, journalist Matt Smith informs about a new report by the non-profit organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggesting unsafe levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water in certain areas of the U.S.. Authors Bill Walker and David Andrews calculated a safety standard for PFOA of 0.0003 parts per billion (ppb). The current standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is at 0.4 ppb – more than 1,000 times higher than the EWG value. Walker and Andrews based their calculations on an earlier study by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts, U.S., that found adverse health consequences at PFOA exposure levels about 400 times lower than the EPA’s current standard. EPA has proposed a permanent safe level for PFOA of 0.1 ppb, which would still be 300 times higher than that suggested by EWG. According to Walker, the PFOA issue exemplifies the shortcomings of the U.S. chemical regulation that allows introduction of chemicals to the market without sufficient safety testing.
PFOA was mainly used in coatings of non-stick frying pans. It is persistent in the environment and bioaccumulates in animals and humans. PFOA has been associated with cancer, birth defects and endocrine disruption. In 2006 EPA made an agreement with eight major chemical manufacturers for precautionary phase out of PFOA by the end of 2015. Under the European regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) PFOA was listed as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) in 2013. In October 2014, several consumer and environmental health groups petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban perfluorinated compounds in food contact materials (FPF reported).
Matt Smith (August 20, 2015). “The chemical long used in non-stick pans might be unsafe at any level.” Vice News
Patrick J. Kiger (August 20, 2015). “Chemical used to make teflon lingers in tap water.” Discovery News
Bill Walker (August 24, 2015). “Commentary: Despite industry spin, bad news keeps sticking to Teflon chemical.” Environmental Health News
David Andrews (August 28, 2015). “6.5 million Americans drink water contaminated with the chemical used to make non-stick pans.” Eco Watch
Walker, B. & Andrews, D. (August 2015). “Teflon chemical harmful at smallest doses.” Environmental Working Group
Grandjean, P. & Clapp, R. (2015). “Perfluorinated alkyl substances – emerging insights into health risks.” New Solutions 25(2):147-163.