Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Is Teflon Chemical Toxic? EPA Seeks Answers

PFOA in Everybody's Blood, but Is It Harmful to Humans?
WebMD Health News

Jan. 13, 2005 -- A chemical used to make Teflon somehow got into the blood of everybody on earth. How did it get there? What does this mean for our health?

These are very important questions, says the Environmental Protection Agency. The answer? Nobody knows. To find out, the EPA has assembled a distinguished panel of outside experts. But they don't start work until next month. Meanwhile, the long-lasting chemical continues to accumulate in the environment -- and in our bodies.

Toxicologist Tim Kropp, PhD, senior scientist with the watchdog group Environmental Working Group, finds the situation alarming.

"It doesn't break down -- ever. It is the most persistent synthetic chemical known to man," Kropp tells WebMD. "It would take your body two decades to get rid of 95% of it, assuming you are not exposed to any more. But you are."

The chemical is PFOA, sometimes called C-8. It's used to make Teflon - made by DuPont -- and many, many other products. But DuPont says PFOA is used only during the manufacturing process and that there's no PFOA in Teflon cookware or other Teflon products.

PFOA gets into the environment during the manufacturing process. Indeed, the EPA and DuPont are squabbling about millions of dollars of EPA-assessed fines for allegedly slow reporting of PFOA data.

But people who live nowhere near PFOA manufacturing sites have PFOA in their blood. How that happened, and what it means for their health, is a mystery, says Jennifer Seed, PhD, EPA chief of pollution prevention and toxics in the risk assessment division of the Existing Chemicals Assessment Branch.

"PFOA is present in most people's blood in this country and beyond; it's even in wildlife," Seed tells WebMD. "We have absolutely no understanding at this point how it got there. It is like fairy dust."

That's scary. So are data from animal studies showing that PFOA causes cancer, liver damage, growth defects, immune system damage, and death in lab rats and monkeys.

"Those are the potential hazards. How those relate to humans is the key question. That is the one we have been grappling with," Seed says.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas