The chemical compound that is currently used to make nonstick coatings is supposed to be safe for human consumption. However, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released a draft of the toxicity assessments for the chemicals, GenX and PFBS, and the findings seem to be the opposite. The EPA stated that, even in very small amounts, these chemical compounds appear to be dangerous.
According to the findings in the EPA draft, the nonstick compound, GenX, can potentially affect the liver, kidneys, blood and immune system as well as developing fetuses. These findings were based off animal studies, citing that the data could be suggestive of cancer.
If these findings are confirmed, it could spell more trouble for the companies that have created these compounds as they were supposed to be safer versions of the stick-and-stain resistant compounds that have been heavily scrutinized in the past. “It is alarming that, 12 years after DuPont, 3M and other companies, under pressure from EPA, began phasing out PFOA and PFOS, we find that replacements like GenX are nearly as hazardous to human health,” said David Andrews, who is a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group.
The main concern for public health officials has always been the contamination of drinking water with the connection of compounds such as PSAS or polyfluoroalyl and perfluoroalkyl substances.
These nonstick compounds are not only used for household products such as food rubber coatings and clothing for the outdoors as well as other consumer goods; military bases in Michigan, West Virginia and Pennsylvania have also been exposed to water contamination; the foam that is used for military exercises by the defense department contains PFAS compounds in their chemicals.
Public Relations Nightmare?
Earlier this year, the Trump administration had actually stopped the study from being published with a main concern that the findings could cause a “public relations nightmare”. Their reasoning was that the risk levels in the findings were far lower than what the EPA had set. However, the environmental and health groups stated that the findings in the reports were essential because the PFAS contaminated drinking water had to be cleaned up by the states.
Senitor Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, a Republican, agreed, quoting in Reuters, “After repeatedly pushing the administration to make these findings public, I’m very glad to see it release this study today. The information contained in the report will help determine potential threats our communities face as a result of certain water contamination issues.”
David Andrews added that the EPA shouldn’t have to be the one fully responsible in making sure that the compounds in chemicals like Gen X are safe for the public. He stated that the chemical industry also has to take responsibility by testing their products and making sure that they are safe before allowing them to go on to the market. According to the Environmental Working Group, roughly 110 million Americans are contaminated with PFAS chemicals through their water supplies.
Teflon and many other nonstick products have been used for decades in the United States, and during this time, companies like 3M and Dow Chemical have had to deal with many lawsuits from people that have been exposed to these chemicals.
With the draft assessment now published, the EPA will give the public 60 days to comment on any findings. Once the 60 days have passed, they will then consider all of the comments put forward from the public and then make the recommended revisions of the drafted documents before the final toxicity assessments is published.