EPA Urges Teflon Chemical Ban
DuPont Agrees to Phase-Out of Worrisome Pollutant PFOA
What About My Nonstick Pans?
Kropp says nonstick pans, when overheated, give off fumes that kill birds. He's quick to add that birds -- such as the canaries once used in coal mines -- are extremely sensitive to toxic substances. And he's just as quick to add that Teflon and other nonstick pans aren't major sources of PFOA.
PFOA is used to make nonstick pans. But nearly all of it burns off during manufacture.
"When making gravy, a cook might use vodka to deglaze a pan," Kropp says. "But there's no alcohol in the gravy -- all the alcohol burns off. That is almost how nonstick pans are made. The little molecules evaporate off and aren't in the pan anymore."
That's true, says Mary Dominiak, the coordinator for the EPA's PFOA investigation.
"We do not expect to see significant PFOA in something like a frying pan," Dominiak told WebMD last year.
Robert Rickard, PhD, DuPont's chief toxicologist, stresses this point.
"With pots and pans, there is no exposure to PFOA," he told WebMD last year. "That is based on studies we have conducted, and also on studies in Denmark and in China. There is absolutely not a consumer issue with this."
Microwave Popcorn a Different Story?
What about all those other products that use PFOA? Kropp says that french fry boxes and microwave popcorn bags are coated with a film rich in PFOA. And he says PFOA "precursors" -- chemicals that turn into PFOA -- get eaten along with microwave popcorn.
But Susan Hazen, acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, says there's no evidence that consumer products are poisoning people with PFOAs.
"The information that we have available does not indicate that the routine use of household products poses a concern," Hazen tells WebMD in an email interview. "At the present time, EPA does not believe there is any reason for consumers to stop using products because of concerns about PFOA."
Kropp wishes the EPA could be even more help to consumers.
What it all comes down to is what is the consumer exposed to, and what can they do," he says. "And while consumers can do some things -- like microwave regular popcorn in a plain brown bag -- they can't do others. You shouldn't have to have a PhD in toxicology to buy a pair of pants."