‘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.
Exposure through the skin to the toxic fluorinated chemical once used to make Teflon could pose the same health hazards as ingesting the compound in water or food, according to a new animal study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH.Read More
Today supporters gathered at the California State Capitol to urge the state Assembly to pass the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, A.B. 495. If passed, the law would ban toxic ingredients like lead, mercury and formaldehyde from the beauty and personal care products Californians use every day. The law will face its first key vote on Tuesday.Read More
EWG today applauded the House for voting to pass H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act.Read More
The Environmental Protection Agency has a long history of failing to act to protect Americans from the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, which are linked to an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.Read More
On Wednesday, I spent the day with retired military firefighter Kevin Ferrara. Like thousands of military firefighters, Master Sgt. Ferrara was trained at Chanute Air Force Base – a now-closed facility in Illinois – to spray firefighting foams made with the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS.Read More
The Trump administration threatened to veto PFAS legislation on Tuesday, just days after failing to meet its promise to move forward by the end of 2019 with efforts to set a drinking water standard for the toxic fluorinated chemicals.Read More
The defense spending bill passed by the Senate today excludes key provisions designed to reduce ongoing releases of the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, remove PFAS from tap water and clean up legacy PFAS contamination.Read More
A defense spending bill passed by the Senate today excludes key provisions designed to reduce ongoing releases of the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, remove PFAS from tap water and clean up legacy PFAS contaminationRead More
The defense bill passed by the Senate today excludes key provisions designed to reduce ongoing releases of the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, remove PFAS from tap water and clean up legacy PFAS contamination.Read More
A defense spending bill passed by the Senate today excludes key provisions designed to reduce ongoing releases of the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, remove PFAS from tap water sources and clean up legacy PFAS contamination at military facilities.Read More
DuPont, whose toxic fluorinated chemicals have contaminated communities nationwide, is buying a company that specializes in removing those same chemicals from tap water.Read More
Environmental Working Group today published a map of 305 military installations that used the firefighting foams made with the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, which have likely contaminated drinking water or ground water on or around the basesRead More
The defense bill finalized by Congress last night excludes key provisions designed to reduce ongoing releases of the toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, remove PFAS from tap water and clean up legacy PFAS contamination.Read More
Manufacturers of the highly toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS may have scored a big win if key provisions to reduce releases and clean up these contaminants from drinking water sources were scrapped from a final defense spending bill before Congress.Read More
Last week, the Navy asked a federal court to delay a lawsuit seeking to require the military to pay for medical monitoring of people who live near naval installations to determine whether they have developed health problems from exposure to fluorinated chemicals, commonly called PFAS.Read More
The number of military installations and adjacent communities likely contaminated with toxic fluorinated chemicals, or PFAS, is higher than previously disclosed, a top Defense Department official admitted – but the Pentagon can’t say how badly it undercounted contaminated sites.Read More
EWG has submitted detailed technical comments to the National Toxicology Program regarding the draft report for PFOA carcinogenicity studies.Read More
Half of the tap water supplies tested by Kentucky environmental officials were contaminated with the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, the state announced this week.Read More
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will consider a package of bills today addressing risks from the highly toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS.Read More