A controversial chemical used by DuPont Co. to make the
nonstick substance Teflon poses more of a cancer risk than
indicated in a draft assessment by the Environmental
Protection Agency, an independent review board has
The EPA stated earlier this year that its draft risk
assessment of perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts found
"suggestive evidence" of potential human carcinogenicity,
based on animal studies.
In a draft report released Monday, the majority of members
on an EPA scientific advisory board that reviewed the agency's
report concluded that PFOA, also known as C-8, is "likely"
to be carcinogenic to humans, and that the EPA should conduct
cancer risk assessments for a variety of tumors found in
mice and rats.
Environmentalists hailed the report, which will be discussed
by EPA officials and SAB members in a public teleconference
July 6, as an important step in holding government regulators
and the Delaware-based chemical giant accountable.
The board's findings will increase pressure on the EPA
to conduct human health risk assessments for liver, breast,
pancreatic and testicular cancer, as well as PFOA's potentially
toxic effects on the immune system, said Richard Wiles,
senior vice president for the Environmental Working Group,
an advocacy and research organization.
"This is contrary to the recommendation of the EPA staff
and is a very important conclusion," said Wiles, adding
that it would be very unlikely for the board to make any
significant changes before issuing its final report for
review by the EPA.
"This makes it hard for the EPA not to move forward aggressively,"
Enesta Jones, a spokeswoman for the EPA's Office of Prevention,
Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, said agency officials
had not reviewed the advisory board's report and do not
comment on board recommendations until they are final.
"We're still working with industry and other people to
gather data that will help us better understand PFOA," she
DuPont officials would not comment on the report but
said in a prepared statement that human health and toxicology
studies suggest that PFOA exposure does not cause cancer
in humans and does not pose a health risk to the general
"To date, no human health effects are known to be caused
by PFOA even in workers who have significantly higher exposure
levels than the general population," the company said.
The company also said data from its employee health studies
and those conducted by 3M Co., which stopped manufacturing
PFOA in 2000, "deserve greater consideration in the EPA's
final risk assessment rather than relying solely on animal
DuPont's studies, which are still ongoing, have found
elevated levels of total cholesterol and fats called triglycerides
among workers exposed to PFOA, but no indication that PFOA
was the cause of increased serum cholesterol and triglycerides.
While PFOA is used to make Teflon, it is not present
in Teflon itself, which is applied to cookware, clothing,
car parts and flooring. PFOA also is used to produce materials
used in firefighting foam, phone cables and computer chips.