Perfluorooctanoic Acid

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) are synthetic chemicals used in many household products. PTFE, also known by the brand name Teflon, is used to coat pots and pans. It provides a convenient surface for cooking and frying foods, as it creates a smooth veneer that prevents foods from sticking. The American Cancer Society reports that Teflon itself is not a cancer-causing agent. However, the chemical PFOA, also known as C8, is used in the manufacture of Teflon. This chemical, suspected of causing cancer, is burned off during the production process. Here is what you need to know about PFOA and your household products.

11. The Environmental Protection Agency and PFOA

Environmental Protection

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took action against the manufacturer of Teflon, Dupont, in 2004. The company had improperly disposed of the toxic chemical C8. Additionally, the company had failed to address the devastating effects of this chemical on human health and the environment.  Dupont paid fines for this activity in 2005. In 2006, the EPA launched the PFOA Stewardship Program and asked eight companies to work toward eliminating PFOA from emissions and products by 2015. All eight of the companies, including Dupont, have reported meeting these goals.

10. Links Between Cancer and PFOA

Cancer And Pfoa

Exposure to high levels of PFOA may result in kidney cancer and testicular cancer, according to reports by the National Institutes of Health. Thyroid cancer may also be linked to PFOAs. Carcinogens are agents that cause changes in the DNA of your cells. This may occur due to lifestyle factors, exposure to chemical substances in the workplace or home, pollution, or medical treatments. While PFOA has not been officially deemed a carcinogen, there does seem to be evidence that it is linked to cancer.

9. Other Health Issues Linked to PFOA

Health Issues

There are several health conditions possibly linked to long-term exposure to PFOA in the environment. The Environmental Pollution Centers list several disorders possibly associated with PFOA, including thyroid dysfunction, osteoarthritis, liver disease, immune disorders, and delayed puberty. Increased uric acid levels and changes in total cholesterol levels may also be linked to PFOA. Furthermore, high levels of PFOA may contribute to improper fetal development, heart problems, and skeletal issues.

8. Household Products That May Contain PFOA

Household Products

Nonstick pots and pans are not the only items that may contain PFOA or have contained PFOA in the past. In addition to its nonstick properties, PFOA is also useful in the construction of waterproof and water-resistant products. Household goods that may contain PFOA include leather, cleaning products, carpeting, pesticides, polishes, waterproof clothing articles, protective sprays, upholstery coatings, and firefighting foams. Additionally, food packaging and certain glues, waxes, and polishes may contain PFOA.

7. Foods That May Contain PFOA

Foods Pfoa

When food is packaged in wrappers that contain PFOA, those chemicals may be transferred to the food. Fast food wrappers that have been treated with chemicals to contain greasy food items may contain PFOA. Microwave popcorn bags are convenient for popping a delicious snack, but they may be transferring PFOA from their inner lining to your popcorn. Finally, the takeout food containers from your favorite restaurants may also contain PFOA.

Related: 12 Everyday Objects That May Expose You to Toxic Substances

6. Cosmetics That May Contain PFOA


Environmental Working Group researched its cosmetic database and discovered Teflon in 66 different products from 15 different companies. To avoid applying PFOA and related chemicals to your skin, read the labels on any skincare products you intend to use. Look for any ingredients that contain the word “fluoro”, as these are the chemicals you want to avoid.

5. Environmental Problems Due to PFOA

Environmental Problems

Improper disposal of PFOA by manufacturers can lead to contamination of soil, air, and water. Since PFOAs are slow to break down, their effects can be long-lasting. At particular risk are areas near large industrial facilities that use or have used PFOAs. Since firefighting foams often contain PFOA, high levels may be found near firefighting training sites.

4. Drinking Water That May Contain PFOA

Drinking Water

While the PFOA Stewardship Program may have phased out the use of PFOA, there are still remnants in the environment. There are still measurable amounts of PFOA in soil, drinking water, and within animals and humans who have been exposed to the chemical. Communities in which the water supply may be contaminated by PFOA and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) include towns in Michigan as well as New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Carolina, and Kansas.

Related: 10 Cancerous Foods

3. Proper Use of Nonstick Cookware

Nonstick Cookware

It is not considered dangerous to use Teflon cookware. However, it may be wise to take precautions to properly use and care for these items. When using nonstick pans, take care not to overheat the pans. Heating an empty pan on the stove burner or using heat that is too high can release toxic fumes into the air. When stirring, use utensils that will not scratch the pan or cause any of the coating to flake off into your food.  Store your nonstick pots and pans with paper or cloth towels between them to prevent scratching. Throw away any nonstick pots or pans that become damaged.

2. Nontoxic Cookware

Nontoxic Cookware

If the thought of using cookware that may contain chemicals linked to cancer makes you nervous, you may want to choose other alternatives. While other nonstick cookware has come onto the market, there may not yet be enough information on its long-term safety. To completely avoid PFOA and PFAS contamination, you may want to use cast iron pots and pans, stainless steel, glass, or copper. While these products do not have nonstick surfaces, a little butter or oil can help keep your food from sticking. A little elbow grease will get your cookware clean without risking your health.

1. Other Ways to Avoid PFOA

Avoid Pfoa

While PFOA and PFAS are not currently manufactured in the United States, other countries may still produce goods containing these chemicals. To avoid introducing PFOA into your home and body, there are certain items you can watch out for. Certain food packaging may contain PFOA, as can household cleaning products, paints, and polishes. Seek out products with natural ingredients and use caution when purchasing water or stain-repellent clothing. Make your own cleaning products with natural ingredients to prevent the spread of chemicals in your home.

Related: 20 Things Science Has Linked to Cancer


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