Nearly all American households contain a deadly poison, released into the air and into our food when we cook. It is a dangerous chemical found in Teflon, the coating used on non-stick cookware. The danger may be little known to the general public but it is no secret to DuPont, who makes Teflon, and interestingly it has been common knowledge among bird owners for years.
Teflon is polymer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) which contains perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA or C-8). PFOA has been linked to many serious health problems including:
- Birth defects
- Liver damage
- Thyroid damage
- Learning disabilities
More than 90% of Americans have PFOA in their bloodstreams.
If you have ever used or washed a Teflon pan, you know how easy it is to damage the non-stick surface and cause it to start flaking. Many people believe that as long as the pans are properly cared for and the surface is intact, that the pans are completely safe to use. The truth is that merely heating the pans can cause toxic fumes to be released. Bird owners discovered this years ago. Birds are very sensitive to toxins in the air and it is not uncommon for birds to drop dead while in the same room where Teflon pans are being used. Although the effects are not as immediately dramatic in humans, these fumes can still cause serious health problems. Polymer fume fever can occur when Teflon is heated to more than 300 degrees. Symptoms include:
- Back ache
- Chest tightness
- Mild cough
When Teflon reaches temperatures over 450 degrees the fumes can cause serious lung damage. These may sound like extremely high temperatures to some, but it is common for recipes to call for temperatures ranging from 300-375 degrees in the skillet, and pans left unattended on the stove can overheat to extreme temperatures very quickly.
Breathing the fumes is not the only danger. When ingested, PFOA accumulates in the blood and does not leave for years or possibly a lifetime. PFOA is found not only in Teflon pans, but in food wraps, pizza boxes, carpeting, furniture, and many other products. It has also been found in high concentrations in tap water in towns near plants where Teflon products are produced.
DuPont has known about, and tried to hide, the dangers for decades. In the early 1950’s DuPont workers were developing polymer fume fever and DuPont scientists discovered that it could develop into pulmonary edema, which can be fatal. This information was not released until 2002 when DuPont research documents were disclosed in court. In 1962 DuPont conducted experiments in which human subjects smoked Teflon laced cigarettes, in order to learn more about polymer fume fever, and to determine if cigarette smoking compounded the effects.
Employee illnesses in the 50’s were just the beginning of a long history of discoveries and cover ups of the dangers of PFOA exposure, including links to birth defects and liver damage and the fact that drinking water was being contaminated by DuPont plants.
DuPont, along with seven other companies who use PFOA have entered into an agreement with the EPA to voluntarily reduce new PFOA emissions by 95% by the year 2010, and to eliminate the emissions entirely by 2015. DuPont still claims that PFOA exposure does not pose any health risks.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been injured by PFOA exposure, please contact an experienced product liability attorney today.