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EPA Urges Teflon Chemical Ban

DuPont Agrees to Phase-Out of Worrisome Pollutant PFOA
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"The EPA stewardship program is a really good framework for phasing out chemicals that have caused a very large public health problem in the U.S.," Kropp tells WebMD. "It is going to phase out PFOA and any compound that breaks down into PFOA, whether as an emission from a factory or the breakdown of things in consumer products."

Phasing out PFOAs doesn't mean that we'll have to give up having nonstick pans or waterproof clothing. Smaller molecules that don't stick in the body can work just as well as PFOAs. Kropp says 3M switched to these safer chemicals five years ago.

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.

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