Dangers of PFOA

It wasn’t long ago that I last warned you about the dangers of PFOA. But since the final report on this toxic chemical was just released, I thought I should mention it again.

Let me rephrase that. I’m compelled to mention it again. Because a panel of public health scientists just concluded that there are “probable links” between PFOA and six different diseases.

Not one or two. But six.

Just in case you missed it the first time, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is the chemical that DuPont uses to make oil- and grease-repellent coatings for packaging. (And most notably, Teflon.)

In a previous Reality Health Check (Chemical inaction, 12/11/12), I mentioned how one West Virginia plant had dumped tons of PFOA into the air and water. This ongoing pollution only recently came to an end.

But the fallout, it seems, is just beginning.

In this latest report, scientists linked PFOA exposure to a handful of life-threatening conditions. Among them: high cholesterol, kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia, and ulcerative colitis.

Those are some pretty serious illnesses. But do you think DuPont did anything about it? Not on their own, that’s for sure.

In fact, it took a class action lawsuit to force the company to investigate any links between PFOA and human illness.

And let’s face it: chances are there is a link between every chemical and some form of human illness. Some are just worse than others. And the victims of this DuPont debacle are just one group out of many.

Because of these findings–which were pursuant to a 2005 settlement–DuPont says it will work with doctors to offer medical monitoring to eligible victims for many years into the future.

The company has also reduced total PFOA emissions by more than 98 percent in their global manufacturing operations over the last decade. And they’re developing new technologies that will enable them to make their products without the chemical.

But again, it took a lawsuit to get them to do that. Which begs the question: Where are the government regulatory agencies that are supposedly in place to protect us?

Most likely in cahoots with the chemical companies, that’s where.

Even after all this, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a provisional health advisory limit of 0.4 parts per billion of PFOA in drinking water. As if any level of this toxic chemical in our drinking water is truly safe.

When will this madness end?

More than likely, not anytime soon. We’ve just uncovered the tip of this iceberg–just imagine what else is out there.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist. But we are surrounded by toxins every single day. And most of us are completely unaware of that fact–or we simply choose to ignore it for the sake of convenience.

We haphazardly carry on in this toxic soup, thinking that it’s okay because it makes our lives easier or our houses and clothes cleaner. But the truth is that we’ve reached critical mass in terms of our exposure. And now, we’re paying a very high price.

It’s well past time we started asking ourselves if we really need all the chemicals we use.

I counted, and I use 16 different chemical products before I leave the house in the morning. And those are basic things.

These days, I barely dry clean my clothes anymore unless it is absolutely necessary. And I have long since switched to safer versions of many products wherever possible.

Now count how many you use. Evaluate their safety. (The Environmental Working Group is a great consumer resource with a searchable product database.) And if you can put a dent in your own toxic exposure, do it.

We may never be able to avoid chemicals completely. But when you’re squaring off against a lifetime of disease, every little bit truly does count.

Whitworth, Joe. “Six ‘probable links’ between packaging coating and diseases, conclude scientists.” 03 Dec 2012. Accessed at http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Packaging/Six-probable-links-between-packaging-coating-and-diseases-conclude-scientists.