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More ill effects linked to DuPont chemical

Teflon ingredient hinders animal reproduction, study finds

Dec 6, 2006 | The News Journal

A manufactured chemical used in making nonstick and stain-resistant products may disrupt important reproductive tissues in pregnant and unborn female mice, according to researchers in North Carolina.

A report in the latest edition of the journal Toxicological Sciences was the latest to find possible links between C8, or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and problems in animal health, development and reproduction.

PFOA is manufactured only by the DuPont Co. in the United States and has become the target of an intensive Environmental Protection Agency and European Union health risk study. The compound is used in production of Teflon and huge numbers of nonstick and stain-resistant coatings and products, including coatings for food wrappers and containers.

An EPA advisory panel tentatively labeled PFOA a "probable" cancer-causing agent. The same material has been targeted in lawsuits around the nation, some focusing on PFOA-tainted water near DuPont plants in New Jersey, West Virginia, Ohio and elsewhere.

In the most recent study, researchers noted diminished weight in newborn mice after their mothers were exposed to PFOA, along with "significant" stunting of mammary glands in newborn female mice.

The same report by scientists at two North Carolina universities and two federal laboratories also cited possible effects on mammary tissue development and milk production in pregnant females. It was the first study to document "PFOA-induced toxicity" in mouse reproductive tissues, and noted that the findings point to possible effects on "a range of reproductive tissues" that might have been missed in studies using rats.

An attorney that handled a class-action lawsuit against DuPont targeting C8 in drinking water, described the latest findings as "somewhat shocking." The lawsuit is expected to cost DuPont tens of millions of dollars for water testing, water treatment and other concessions in communities near its Parkersburg, W.Va., plant.

"I have no hesitation to comment on the obvious fact that every new study on this topic points toward a likely health risk," the attorney, who described DuPont's position on studies of its workers by a court-appointed science panel as "suspect."

DuPont issued a statement after reviewing a summary of the report.

"This is additional animal data, but the relevance to humans remains uncertain," the DuPont statement said. "There are no human health effects known to be caused by PFOA, although studies on the chemical continue."

The company has said that all of its products, including those using Teflon, are safe.

Although used only since the 1940s, PFOA and related compounds have been found in the blood of humans and animals around the globe. The material is used in manufacturing, but also emerges from the breakdown of related commercially important products including some made with chemicals handled at DuPont's Chambers Works plant in Deepwater, N.J., near the foot of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said Monday that reducing potential risks from PFOA "continues to be a priority" for the agency. Results of the study will be used by the EPA and industry to refine risk assessments that will guide policies. Industry has committed to reducing and phasing out use of the chemical.

DuPont's Chambers Works plant recently began shipping some fluorinated chemicals now under study by the EPA to a chemical plant on Mississippi's Gulf Coast for treatment that reduces the risk of PFOA-type contamination.

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