Terrible Toxins 6: Hot, Hot Hot – Perflourinated Non Stick Coatings

September 01, 2009

Terrible Toxins 6:  Hot, Hot Hot – Perflourinated Non Stick Coatings 

Competency #18 TOXINS Reference: The Body Toxic by Nena Baker, Published by Farrar, Strauss 2008 

 Perfluorinated non-stick coatings, the short name is PFOA.  Imagine a long chain of carbon atoms, just like a fatty acid.  Instead of hydrogens, you substitute fluorine.  Fluorine makes an incredibly tight bond.  It’s just about the strongest bond in nature.  It never, ever, ever breaks down.  This sets the record for persistence in our environment.  Fluorine has some nifty features.  It naturally repels water, so nothing sticks.  Presto chango: you’ve got Teflon, Goretex, stain-resistant carpets, stain repellent on furniture, dental floss, stiff nail polish, drapes that look clean, pet beds that don’t get stained.  Anything you want to make water-resistant and stain repelling, you spray with PFOAs and you have a product that people like. 

 But is it safe?  Well, cynomolgus monkeys don’t think so. When tested with high exposures, they get excessive salivation, develop trouble breathing and eventually lose coordination and die.  Because it never breaks down, PFOAs have been found in the artic in polar bears and everywhere in-between.  It just takes 2% leakage in the manufacturing process for there to be some 500,000 pounds a year of the stuff leaking into our atmosphere and circulating around the globe. Let’s get real down and dirty.  

Where do you get exposed the most intimately?  If I told you that PFOAs repel grease and water, would you be surprised to know that microwave popcorn bags are heavily lined with them?  Fast food wrappers, paper plates, paper cups, and individual butter serving wrappings also contain PFOAs.  PFOAs are in many, many food product wrappers that we use every day.  Did you know that DuPont never informed the EPA of the rise in birth defects at its plant and was fined $ 16 million for not doing so?  This was the largest EPA fine ever. The EPA has negotiated a reduction in “emissions” during manufacturing, but that’s not a reduction in actual exposure.  Remember, we have to have absolute proof of harm in America.  We don’t have a safety model, we have an economic harm model with corporations having rights, just like humans. 

 WWW.  What will work for me?  I don’t eat popcorn in microwave bags.  I don’t heat any food in any plastic microwave bags.  I’m looking at all nonstick food linings I’m exposed to.  I’m replacing all our non-stick cooking pots with stainless steel, cast iron, or anodized aluminum.  I’m not getting the stain-resistant carpeting and I’m not letting anyone spray my car with stain repellant.  My shoes can get wet when I hike.  They’ll dry out.  Sounds like we’re turning back the clock to an earlier time.  Well, we are.   You should have heard the fit the chef at the last wellness conference had when asked about nonstick pans!  She said, “Throw them out!” Whew.  And I thought I was fussy.

Column written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI, (262-784-5300)