Myths About Teflon

Myth: Teflon® is a chemical that can enter the bloodstream.

REALITY. Teflon® is not a chemical and it cannot enter the bloodstream. Teflon® is a Chemours trademark-protected brand name for a fluoropolymer, PTFE, used to make nonstick cookware and other products. As noted by EPA Teflon® and other products are not PFOA.

Myth: PFOA in nonstick frying pans is a danger to pet birds.

REALITY. PFOA is not an ingredient in nonstick products, but instead is used as a processing aid at the initial stages of nonstick-coating production. The small amount of PFOA in liquid coatings, which is left over from the fluoropolymer manufacturing process, is largely removed or destroyed during the final steps by the high temperatures used when the coatings are cured onto nonstick cookware. In fact a study which examined potential exposure to PFOA from a wide range of consumer products found PFOA levels in the products to be non-detectable with the best available analytical methods, or so minute that potential exposures would be insignificant.

However, it is widely known that cooking and cleaning fumes of any type may be harmful to pet birds, which have extremely sensitive respiratory systems. All smoke and fumes have the potential to harm pet birds, especially smoke from burning foods. That is why many cookware manufacturers recommend that pet birds not be kept in or near the kitchen.

Myth: Exposure to PFOA can cause birth defects in humans.

REALITY. Laboratory testing of PFOA has shown that it does not cause birth defects or affect DNA at current levels of human exposure in the environment. Some adverse effects have been observed in laboratory tests on animals, but these effects were observed only at exposures many times higher than those to which the general public is ever exposed. [See Butenhoff et al study.]

Myth: PFOA can be easily replaced with other substances to make fluoropolymers.

REALITY. PFOA is an essential polymerization aid for fluoropolymers with specific properties. Industry has work for over 30 years to find a replacement that meets environmental, toxicological and manufacturing requirements for the large majority of fluoropolymers applications. In February 2007, a major fluoropolymer supplier announced its commitment to eliminate the need to make, buy or use PFOA by 2015, citing progress made over the past year in finding a suitable alternative to PFOA, and commenting that this was a goal which just a year ago seemed unattainable.

Myth: Industry is opposed to regulations on the use of PFOA.

REALITY. The FPIC supports the appropriate regulation of the use of PFOA. In March 2006, EPA reported that members of the fluoropolymer manufacturing industry joined a voluntary EPA stewardship program with the aim of reducing emissions of PFOA from manufacturing and in products by at least 95 percent by 2010 (measured from a 2000 baseline); and eliminating PFOA from emissions and products by 2015. Meanwhile, FPIC members have already taken voluntary steps to reduce the potential for exposure, such as using low-PFOA products, and following manufacturer's recommendations for proper processing to reduce emissions from fluoropolymer processing facilities.

Myth: Tests have shown developmental effects in laboratory animals at PFOA blood levels of 40 parts per billion.

REALITY. The above statement misinterprets the available data, which indicate that the lowest effect level (lower 95% confidence interval for a 10% benchmark response) in laboratory animal studies corresponds to a PFOA blood level of 23 parts per million (ppm). This lowest benchmark dose is 575 time higher than the 40 ppb effect level claimed.

Myth: No laboratory study has found a level of PFOA exposure without adverse effects.

REALITY. The above statement is wrong. Lowest effect levels in laboratory studies have been determined in a recent published comprehensive review (Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology study referenced above) and indicate the lowest exposure level at which any adverse effect could be experimentally determined.

By definition, any concentration below the lowest effect dose level will be a level of exposure without adverse effects.

Myth: Developmental effects associated with PFOA exposure include changes in bone structure and organs.

REALITY. The above statement is wrong. Studies such a Palazzolo, 1993 (reviewed in Butenhoff et al.), have reported levels of PFOA exposure without adverse effects.