OK, here are those PFAS chemicals (perfluoroalkyl/polyfluoroalkyl substances) rearing their ugly little heads again. This time it is the newer version of the chemical compounds that was supposed to be “safer”. (The older PFAS versions meanwhile are busy contaminating our drinking water and killing the environment.)
These so-called “safer” PFAS chemicals on nonstick cookware (known as Gen-X chemicals, btw) are apparently really pernicious (though why we did not know this prior to permitting people to cook their food on it is the real mystery). According to the just-released Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) preliminary report,
“Long-term exposure to a chemical compound currently used for making nonstick coatings appears to be dangerous, even in minute amounts.“
And they are not staying vague. The report goes on to say:
Animals studies indicate that “GenX nonstick compound has the potential of affecting the kidneys, blood, immune system, liver and developing fetuses following oral exposure. The data are suggestive of cancer.”
Fab-u-lous. In short, “the compounds that we’re replacing toxic compounds for are also toxic.”
Well said, Dr. Lee Ferguson (an environmental analytical chemist and associate professor at Duke University).
Unfortunately, PFAS are in a lot of U.S. homes these days. They are used in nonstick coatings on products ranging from frying pans, pots and cooking utensils, to sandwich wrappers, processed bakery goods wrappings and popcorn bags, to outdoor/water-repellant clothing, gear and camping tents, to stain-resistant treatments for clothing, furniture and carpets, to fast-food wrappers, to cosmetics.
As for the older versions of PFAS, federal toxicology officials determined recently that the two phased-out versions of the compound are dangerous at levels far lower than previously believed.
(And, btw, the AP reported that in an email released through open-records laws earlier this year an unidentified White House official called that finding a “potential public relations nightmare”.)
Other related fun facts:
The EPA has now classified this GenX PFAS-based chemical on your nonstick pans and other products as an “emerging contaminant” needing more research.
The PFAS chemical is related to other fluorinated chemicals including PFOA, which, as we have reported numerous times, has also been blamed for causing health problems.
So what now? The EPA will seek 60 days of public comment on its findings*. And you will go back to the store and buy some new cookware. (And stay away from fast food and the wrappers on your way back.)
*The EPA will accept public comments on the GenX chemicals and PFAS draft toxicity assessments for 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register. EPA will then consider the public comments, revise the documents, and consider the need for additional review, as appropriate.
For more information, visit www.epa.gov/pfas/genx-pfbs
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