What is Teflon?
Teflon is chemical compound discovered by Roy J. Plunkett of DuPont in 1938. It was introduced as a commercial product in 1946. Teflon, also known as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), is a polymer of fluorinated ethylene. It has the lowest coefficient of friction of any known solid material. As a result, it is frequently used as a non-stick coating for cookware as well as other industrial applications.
The EPA’s scientific advisory panel has identified PFOA, a constituent Teflon, as a “likely carcinogen.” Until recently, the EPA has classified it as a “suggested” carcinogen, requiring less precaution. Teflon coatings have been shown to break down and release toxic gases upon overheating. In recent years, under the threat of litigation, DuPont has publically discussed the risks of using Teflon on very hot surfaces, but they have not recalled the product. PFOA does not break down in the environment or in the human body, so the material persists in the body for many years.
The EPA filed a complaint alleging the company withheld evidence of its concerns about PFOA. That would be a violation of federal law for the last 20 years. In the report, they allege that a DuPont study of female workers exposed to the substance found that two out of seven women gave birth to babies with facial defects, and the company failed to report its studies adequately. If companies have reason to believe a substance poses a threat, they are required by the Toxic Substances Control Act to notify the EPA.
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