Don't Miss Out

Subscribe to OCA's News & Alerts.

Teflon — The Devil We Know

While C8 was not in existence a century ago, it is now found in over 99 percent of American blood samples, according to analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1 This chemical has been found in newborn babies, umbilical cord blood and breast milk. Many animals have suffered the consequences as the chemical is ubiquitous in the environment and does not degrade. In fact, scientists expect it will remain on the planet well after humans are all gone.2

C8, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is man-made and used in the process of producing Teflon, known for its nonstick qualities.3 Following a barrage of lawsuits against DuPont for the release of C8 into the environment, production ended in 2015.

However, C8 continues to be released into the air and water through use of products that are already on the market. Additionally, DuPont and other companies have only substituted a shorter chain version of C8 in the production of stain resistant materials and Teflon coated pans.

DuPont has been a master of deceptive and manipulative public relations strategies that have helped ensure their financial success, while at the same time creating chemicals that are destroying the environment and your health. What's worse, the company has known of the effects on the environment and human health and has repeatedly lied to federal and local regulators, consumers and even their own employees about toxicity from exposure.

The film "The Devil We Know," released at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018, depicts the struggle employees and residents of the Ohio Valley went through to ensure DuPont chemical company takes responsibility for their actions, which will be experienced for centuries to come.

Better Living Through Chemistry

One of the largest experiments performed on humans began in the postwar era of 1935, when DuPont invented the slogan "Better Living Through Chemistry." It wasn't until 1982 that the tagline "Through Chemistry" was dropped. Ultimately, the intent of the slogan was to change public opinion and perception about the role of chemical industry in society. If you aren't afraid of the product, you're more likely to use it on a daily basis.

However, most health experts and advocates believe nonstick pans should have been banned many years ago to mitigate risks, as both animal and human diseases have been linked to exposure.

Many Americans are exposed to Teflon coated pans either at home or in meals prepared at restaurants. The epic legal battles fought against DuPont have shed some light on the deceptive practices the company used in order to keep their product on the market. PFOA is not only an ingredient in nonstick cookware, but can also be found in stain-resistant products, microwave popcorn bags and fast food wrappers. Waterproof clothing and soil repellent carpet and furniture treatments also contain PFOA.

C8 is a fluorinated chemical. It is the fluorine atoms that provide the nonstick slipperiness that gives Teflon its unique qualities. During the legal process of suing DuPont, hundreds of internal documents were uncovered showing the company knew about the chemical's danger to the public and employees, likely as early as 1961.

Although this information is only recently reaching the courts, over a decade ago the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined DuPont $16.5 million for withholding decade's worth of information about health hazards. Although it was the largest fine the EPA had ever assessed, it did not act as a deterrent to the company and DuPont continue to manufacture and release C8 into the environment.

With Full Understanding of the Risk, DuPont Did Not Curb Emissions

DuPont had evidence of harm to livestock ranging from liver toxicity and kidney damage to death. Company workers gave birth to children with birth defects, while DuPont merely tracked the health effects in their workers without informing regulators of their findings. As they continued to study the effect on their workers they were also tracking the spread of the chemical into nearby waterways, and emissions through their smokestacks. According to The Intercept:4

"… [F]rom that point on, DuPont increased its use and emissions of the chemical… the plant put an estimated 19,000 pounds of C8 into the air in 1984, the year of the meeting. By 1999, the peak of its air emissions, the West Virginia plant put some 87,000 pounds of C8 into local air and water. That same year, the company emitted more than 25,000 pounds of the chemical into the air and water around its New Jersey plant...

The executives, while conscious of probable future liability, did not act with great urgency about the potential legal predicament they faced. If they did decide to reduce emissions or stop using the chemical altogether, they still couldn't undo the years of damage already done. As the meeting summary noted, 'We are already liable for the past 32 years of operation.'"