PFAS Chemicals

‘Forever Chemicals’: Teflon, Scotchgard and the PFAS Contamination Crisis

In 1946, DuPont introduced Teflon to the world, changing millions of people’s lives – and polluting their bodies. Today, the family of compounds including Teflon, commonly called PFAS, is found not only in pots and pans but also in the blood of people around the world, including 99 percent of Americans. PFAS chemicals pollute water, do not break down, and remain in the environment and people for decades. Some scientists call them “forever chemicals."

Since 2001, when news erupted about the contamination of drinking water near a Teflon plant in West Virginia, EWG has been in the forefront of research and advocacy on PFAS chemicals. Links to much of our work follow. For a compelling overview of the contamination in West Virginia and its aftermath, see the acclaimed documentary film The Devil We Know, available on multiple streaming platforms.

A robust body of research reveals a chemical crisis of epic proportions. Nearly all Americans are affected by exposure to PFAS chemicals in drinking water, food and consumer products.

What are PFAS chemicals?

Per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS chemicals, are a family of thousands of chemicals used to make water-, grease- and stain-repellent coatings for a vast array of consumer goods and industrial applications. These chemicals are notoriously persistent in the environment and the human body, and some have been linked to serious health hazards.

What are the health effects of PFAS?

The two most notorious PFAS chemicals – PFOA, formerly used by DuPont to make Teflon, and PFOS, an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard – were phased out under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency after scientific evidence of serious health problems came to light. The manufacture, use and importation of both PFOA and PFOS are now effectively banned in the U.S., but evidence suggests the next-generation PFAS chemicals that have replaced them may be just as toxic. PFAS chemicals pollute water, do not break down and remain in the environment and in people for decades.

Studies have linked PFAS chemicals to:

  • Testicular, kidney, liver and pancreatic cancer.
  • Weakened childhood immunity.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Endocrine disruption.
  • Increased cholesterol.
  • Weight gain in children and dieting adults.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

A highly toxic Teflon chemical has been detected in the drinking water sources serving President Trump and other members of the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, N.J., according to a new analysis of water utility tests by the Environmental Working Group and first reported on by Politico.

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News Release
Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS have been detected in almost 200 New Jersey drinking water systems and groundwater sources, according to the latest state and federal data compiled and mapped by EWG.

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News and Analysis
Article
Monday, November 4, 2019

October was Children’s Environmental Health Month in California, a designation made by state legislators to raise awareness about the importance of cleaner air and water, safer food and healthier products for kids. But lawmakers and state officials didn’t just observe the occasion: They also took important actions to protect children’s health from hazardous chemicals.

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News and Analysis
Article
Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Public water utilities in Kentucky have detected toxic perfluorinated chemicals, or PFAS, in the drinking water sources for roughly 800,000 residents, according to an analysis by Environmental Working Group of recent utility tests from all 50 states.

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News Release
Thursday, October 24, 2019

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – as you may have noticed from the annual explosion of pink products claiming to fund breast cancer research.

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Key Issues:
News and Analysis
Article
Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Just because your community’s tap water gets a passing grade from the government does not mean it’s safe

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News Release
Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A sample of residential tap water in Louisville, Ky, contained 10 different compounds in the family of toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, according to laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group

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News and Analysis
Article
Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Designating the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS as “hazardous substances” is critical to cleaning up legacy contamination of a chemical linked to cancer.

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News and Analysis
Article
Thursday, October 3, 2019

One of the largest U.S. chemical companies, which for decades knowingly poisoned its own workers and drinking water supplies near its factories with the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, is fighting one state’s efforts to protect the public from these dangerous compounds.

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News Release
Thursday, October 3, 2019

Many of the nation’s highest levels of groundwater contamination with PFAS – highly toxic fluorinated chemicals linked to increased risk of cancer and other diseases – have been found at military sites, according to federal data obtained and analyzed by EWG.

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News and Analysis
Article
Tuesday, October 1, 2019

A new scientific review finds “unequivocal evidence” that firefighters using foams made with the fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS have “unacceptably” high levels of two toxic PFAS chemicals in their blood. 

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News Release
Monday, September 30, 2019

An order issued today by a federal judge allows a class action case against 3M, DowDuPont, Chemours and six other companies to proceed when he denied every motion to dismiss the case brought by these chemical corporations responsible for producing toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS.

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News Release
Thursday, September 26, 2019

Environmental Working Group urges the California State Water Resources Control Board to address per- and polyfluorinated substances, or PFAS, in drinking water as a class.

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Testimonies & Official Correspondence
Thursday, September 26, 2019

WASHINGTON – The House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change of the Committee on Energy and Commerce p

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Testimonies & Official Correspondence
Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Drinking water sources for 74 community water systems serving 7.5 million Californians are contaminated with the highly toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to an Environmental Working Group review of the latest state data.

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News Release
Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Drinking water sources for 74 community water systems serving 7.5 million Californians are contaminated with the highly toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to an Environmental Working Group review of the latest state data.

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Reports & Consumer Guides
Thursday, September 19, 2019

The toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS are a class of environmentally persistent manmade chemicals that are used as water, grease and stain repellents in clothing and furniture, in industrial firefighting foam, and in the production of nonstick cookware.

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News and Analysis
Article
Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Governors from 15 states, including many facing mounting contamination of drinking water sources from toxic perfluorinated chemicals, or PFAS, are urging Congressional leaders to include provisions in a must-pass defense spending bill that would require the federal government to monitor and clean up the pollution.

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News Release
Monday, September 16, 2019

This year’s defense spending bill – the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA – now being considered by Congress, is an unprecedented chance to regulate the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, which have contaminated hundreds of public water systems nationwide.

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News and Analysis
Article
Friday, September 13, 2019

Drinking water supplies at two Washington state Army installations are contaminated with extremely high levels of the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to Department of Defense data obtained by EWG under the Freedom of Information Act.

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Testimonies & Official Correspondence

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