Compound in Teflon May Cause Cancer

There is a growing concern there there is a compound in Teflon® that may cause cancer. No one is filing any lawsuits about this, at least not yet. Science has to dig a lot deeper into all of this. The purpose of this post is just to give you an overview of the concern about the possible.

Teflon® is the brand name for DuPont’s product, has been used as a non-stick coating surface for pans and cookware, as well as in other products such as fabric protectors since the 1940’s. Teflon® is the brand name for polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a man-made chemical. C8, otherwise known as Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is another man-made chemical that is used during the manufacturing of Teflon® and other flurotelormers. C8 is not present in significant amounts in the end product, as it is burned off during the manufacturing process of Teflon®.

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Over the past several years, concerns have been raised regarding potential health effects of Teflon® and the chemicals used in its manufacture. Some early studies have suggested that higher PFOA blood levels in humans may be linked with higher than normal cholesterol levels, thyroid disease, and reduced fertility, although further studies are needed to confirm these findings.

These concerns heated up last month. On April 15, 2012, the C8 Science Panel released a report (Report: Probable Link Evaluation of Cancer) concluding that there is a probable link between C8 and kidney and testicular cancer. Further research is required to determine if there is a link between C8 exposure and prostate cancer. In the report by the C8 Science Panel, there were slight indications. The report dismisses links between C8 other cancers and diabetes (Report: Probable Link Evaluation of Diabetes).

C8 was most strongly correlated with testicular cancer, with a rate of development of 3 to 1 in individuals exposed to C8. It was also found that individuals in the geographical region affected by C8 exposure had a 6.7-to-1 increased rate of testicular cancer as compared to populations not exposed to C8. A comprehensive report of the panel’s findings is expected in July.
Previous reports released by the C8 Science Panel released December 05, 2011 found that there is also a probable link between C8 and pregnancy-induced hypertension, but it does not appear to be related to birth defects, preterm birth, low birth weights, still births or miscarriage.
The C8 Science Panel is a group of three epidemiologists chosen by the parties to a previous legal settlement of a case involving DuPont and the release of C8 from their plant. The research is based on information gathered on the health status and and C8 exposure in the Mid-Ohio Valley communities. This demographic is potentially exposed to and affected by C8 release from the Washington Works plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. A full report on C8 exposure and cancer risk is expected in July of this year.

Further reports are expected from regulatory agencies including the US EPA, Health Canada and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) [part of the World Health Organization].

Although many of the long-term effects of C8 and similar chemicals unknown, since 2006 the EPA is working with 8 manufacturers using C8 to eliminate emissions and product contents by 2015. Earlier studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found the chemical in the bloodstream of 95% of US citizens. Further, the EPA has stated that C8 can stay in the body for up to 4 years.
DuPont was previously fined $10.25 million by the EPA due to potential health and environmental hazards of C8 and has also settled a C8 contamination class-action lawsuit for $107.6 million filed by residents near a Teflon plant in West Virginia.

In any event, to the question of “Does this Teflon compound cause cancer?”, the answers is we will just have to wait and see. Science needs to do its thing before we will know.

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