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DuPont To Cut Use of C-8 for Teflon

Replacement ingredient won't have fluorine

Mar 15, 2005 | The News Journal

The DuPont Co. plans to reduce the amount of a controversial chemical, used to make Teflon, that is believed to be in the blood of most people.

Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, will be largely replaced in Teflon coatings and other paint-like formulations by the end of 2006, said George H. Senkler Jr., managing director of technology for DuPont fluoroproducts.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying how PFOA, also known as C-8, becomes pervasive in the environment and whether it poses a risk to human health.

The Fluoropolymer Manufacturers Group - composed of DuPont and three other companies - has agreed in principle to reduce PFOA content in these formulations by at least 90 percent by the end of 2006, using 2000 as a base year. DuPont has been discussing such a reduction with the EPA for several months. The agreement by the manufacturers' group was struck at a meeting Feb. 9 but was not widely reported by the media.

Only about 15 percent of the PFOA used to make fluoropolymers is used for coatings, according to the manufacturing group. Plans have not been announced to reduce the amount of PFOA used to make other products, such as wire coatings.

The PFOA will be replaced by a new ingredient that does not contain fluorine, DuPont spokesman R. Clifton Webb said.

DuPont is the world's largest producer of fluoropolymers, used in nonstick cookware, electrical coatings, computer chip processing and stain-resistant carpeting.

DuPont also will reformulate another product known as fluorotelomers, Senkler said. No further details on DuPont's plans with fluorotelomers were available Monday. Fluorotelomers are used to make fabrics stain-resistant and in fast-food packaging and textile products.

Jane Houlihan, a vice president at the Environmental Working Group, a DuPont critic, said the changes won't eliminate the threat to human health. She said consumer products containing fluorotelomers break down and release PFOA, which then enters the bloodstream. DuPont disputes that claim.

"It's good news for the communities around the plant and the workers, but it doesn't help the rest of the world," Houlihan said of the effort to replace PFOA in chemical processing.

PFOA, which can cause cancer in animals, is found in the blood of almost all people at very low levels, the EPA has said. PFOA isn't yet known to make people sick. The EPA is studying how PFOA makes its way into the bloodstream.

DuPont also is reducing PFOA emissions from its plants, and new product formulas are aimed at helping customers reduce emissions, Senkler said.

"We view this largely as dealing with the perception issue of this appearing in people's blood, rather than a health issue," Senkler said.

An EPA advisory panel also is deciding whether to characterize the chemical as having undetermined "carcinogenic potential" or as being a "likely carcinogen," a higher risk assessment.

DuPont believes PFOA does not cause human cancers and asked the panel Wednesday to wait until more studies are presented before making a ruling, DuPont Chief Toxicologist Robert W. Rickard said Monday.

Last month, a West Virginia judge approved a settlement in which DuPont agreed to pay at least $107.6 million to reduce and test for PFOA contamination in community water supplies around DuPont's Washington Works, W.Va., plant. The money will be used to purchase new water-treatment equipment, to pay for an independent study to determine whether PFOA makes people sick and to test for the chemical in human blood.

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