Teflon Found in Drinking Water in 27 States

A new study issued by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found chemicals used in the manufacture of Teflon in the drinking water of 27 American states (list found here). The report indicates that 94 public water systems contain a toxic chemical known as PFOA (short for perfluorooctanoic acid). PFOA is a polyfluorinated chemical (PFC) and is non-stick, waterproof and grease-proof. PFCs are used in clothing, cookware, carpets, furniture, food wrappers and other consumer and industrial products.

The report was released nearly a decade after DuPont, the manufacturer of Teflon committed to virtually eliminate the chemical from Teflon and consumer products coated in it by 2015. In the article in the Washington Post a decade ago, DuPont indicated “processes will be developed to ensure that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) would not be released into the environment from finished products or manufacturing plants.” But the new study finds that the drinking water of over 6.5 million Americans is contaminated with the toxic substance. Some samples ranged between 5 and 175 times the level considered safe by new research.

PFOA is not naturally found in the environment, but is a synthetic chemical introduced into water and the environment as a result of hundreds of manufacturing and industrial processes. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFOA is highly persistent in the environment and is now found in in the environment and the blood of the general American population, and is known to cause developmental and other adverse effects in humans. The EWG indicates that PFOA are linked to cancer, birth defects, and heart disease.

In 2005, one of the world’s largest chemical and genetically-modified seeds companies, DuPont, settled a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of 70,000 mid-Ohio Valley residents for contaminating their drinking water with PFOA for decades as part of the company’s manufacture of the chemical Teflon. According to the EWG the company is paying to filter the water, but not eliminate, the toxin from six of the area’s water systems. It is interesting to note that in the same year DuPont was selected by BusinessWeekas a best-practice leader in environmentalism for cutting carbon gas emissions.

The new research by the Environmental Working Group indicates that not only does PFOA-contaminated water exist well beyond the borders of the Ohio Valley, the level of PFOA previously considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency is now hundreds or thousands of times higher than it should be. The report also indicates that the “danger (of PFOA) may be much greater than residents or regulators thought.”

DuPont claims to no longer use PFOA in the manufacture of Teflon. The EPA also states that consumer products made with Teflon are not PFOA, but then the regulators also indicate on their website that some of them contain PFOA.

DuPont is well-known for its development of fabrics like Lycra, polyester, acrylic and nylon, as well as genetically-modified seed. As an aside, DuPont is the same company that in 1910 published a brochure entitled “Farming with Dynamite.” Next month, the first of 3500 personal injury lawsuits from mid-Ohio Valley residents who became ill after drinking the PFOA-contaminated drinking water will go to trial. In the meantime, agency officials indicate that they may take until 2021 to decide whether to set a legally-enforcable maximum amount for PFOA since industry standards for the chemical are currently voluntary.

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186 comments

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

I don't own non-stick pans.

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Diana L.
Diana L.2 years ago

With so many suffers of chronic fatigue and other conditions that don't yield themselves to conventional answers, why hasn't medicine reached the point where they're willing to acknowledge that most of us have grown up in the era of Plastics (BPA) and PFOAs (Teflon), among other ubiquitous endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and yet medical practitioners — in spite of the reality that toxins can induce illness — are still taking a don't-ask, don't-find, don't-collect-real-world-data approach? It's the 21st Century. And if there's one thing that scares me more than cancer-chemicals floating around in our food, water and bloodstreams it's the idiots who would rather go on producing this crap out our expense. (And I do mean "at our expense". Health care is already astronomically expensive, and it doesn't help that the American Cancer Society acknowledges that 1 in 2 men in their lifetime will develop cancer, and 1 in 3 women.)

I'm a believer that necessity is the mother of all invention. I am sure there are better, cleaner, greener and smarter ways to accomplish the same thing. Relying on chemistry methods that date back to the 1970s and sometimes as far back to the 1930s seems lazy. It's time for industry to step up their game. We don't need to live in the stone age, nor do we need to live in a toxic soup. Moreover, the American Cancer Society ought to be speaking out more vocally than they do against environmentally-mediated forms of cancer. Instead, they take the pol

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Diana L.
Diana L.2 years ago

Years ago a study found that PFOA is so ubiquitous that it even has been detected in most samples of infant cord blood. The revealing thing about that study is that there were some levels detected even among women who do not use nonstick cookware. This leads credence to the fact that Teflon is widely disseminated in the environment, drinking water or otherwise. This report suggests that despite the supposed phase-out date for PFOA these chemicals can and do appear above "safe" limits in drinking water. Taken together, it would appear that chronic exposure is the norm.

Given the above, I wonder how much study has been devoted to another possibility that (scarily) comes to mind: Is there any possibility that there is a tie-in between the rising rates of autism and the introduction and widespread use of nonstick cookware, plumbers tape and so many other products that contain PFOAs? Has there been any study that attempts to determine if children who have been diagnosed with Autism have toxic levels of PFOAs in their blood?

Given that a whopping 95 percent of us purportedly have some level of this contaminant circulating in our bloodstreams, what happens when it is overloaded in the mother and/or a developmentally challenged child? Could this be contributing to another phenomena that we're hearing, which is lower sperm counts in males (both human and animal) and higher rates of infertility? And, finally, is it time that medical doctors start incorporating testing for this

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

I didn't realize the problem was so big. Thanks for the information and the good comments.

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Daniel F.
Daniel F2 years ago

Best comment ever on on this topic Sharyn W.!!

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sharyn w.
sharyn w2 years ago

The world needs to ban and outlaw everything DuPont, Monsanto and others like them invent, produce, manufacture, distribute including all components singularly, in combination or otherwise. These companies are killing all of us it's time to rid the world of these companies by demanding they stop this toxic and deadly pollution of all life forms. Consumers must learn what to avoid and not purchase or use anything coming from these companies directly and 'indirectly'. It will take years but it must be done for future generations to live healthy and thrive. Mankind survived before these companies and their kind since the beginning. Wish that could really happen.

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Dorothy M.
Dorothy M2 years ago

If anyone reading this is still using teflon coated pots and pans and you have pets -- STOP IMMEDIATELY. Even a small burn can release enough toxic gas into an area to kill a parakeet or other small pet.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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