Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Safety of C8 (PFOA) Substitutes Questioned

by Ken Ward Jr.
The Charleston Gazette
June 10, 2008

More than two years ago, federal regulators and the chemical industry announced plans to phase out the use of the toxic chemical C8 in cookware, waterproof clothing and grease-resistant food packaging.

Since the January 2006 announcement, companies such as DuPont and 3M have rushed to find substitute products and get those products on the market. The industry says these new chemicals are safe and effective.

But the replacement chemicals are very similar to C8, cause a "staggering array of health effects," and are shrouded in secrecy by industry and government, according to a new report by the nonprofit advocacy organization Environmental Working Group.

"Calling these replacement chemicals 'green' is like saying you're safer driving a car at 150 miles per hour instead of 200," said Olga Naidenko, a senior scientist with the group. "Just like the chemicals they're replacing, these new compounds are extraordinarily persistent in the environment, they're already found in people's blood, and they cross the placenta to contaminate babies before birth."

In West Virginia, C8 is a major issue because the water supplies for thousands of Parkersburg-area residents have been contaminated with the toxic chemical.

C8 is another name for ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or PFOA. DuPont has used the chemical since the 1950s at its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg. C8 is a processing agent used to make Teflon and other nonstick products, oil-resistant paper packaging and stain-resistant textiles.

Around the world, researchers are finding that people have C8 and other perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, in their blood in low levels. Evidence is mounting about the chemical's dangerous effects, but regulators have not set a federal standard for emissions or human exposure.

© Copyright 1996-2008 The Charleston Gazette

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