US asks co’s to slash output of Teflon compound
By Timothy Gardner
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. environmental regulators on
Wednesday asked DuPont Co., 3M Co. and six other companies to
voluntarily eliminate almost all the releases of a potentially
hazardous compound used in nonstick cookware.
Under what it calls a global stewardship program, the
Environmental Protection Agency asked producers of
perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, to slash emission and product
levels of it by 95 percent by 2010, based on levels in 2000.
The compound is used to make a wide range of nonstick and
stain-resistant surfaces and products such as Teflon.
EPA also encourages the companies that make PFOA to work
toward the elimination of all releases of PFOA by 2015.
PFOA has long been the subject of controversy.
Last month, DuPont agreed to pay $16.5 million to settle
with the EPA over reporting data about the compound.
Last year, DuPont agreed to pay $85 million to residents in
Ohio and West Virginia to settle a lawsuit over the release of
PFOA into the water supply at a plant in West Virginia.
EPA said it will continue to study PFOA’s impact on human
health to see if it needs to take more action on the compound.
“The science on PFOA is still coming in, but the concern is
there, so acting now to minimize future releases of PFOA is the
right thing to do for our environment and health,” Susan Hazen,
acting assistant administrator of EPA’s pesticides and toxic
substances office, told reporters on a conference call.
ERRING ON SIDE OF CAUTION
The agreement was praised by an environmental group. “This
is one of those days that we think the EPA is working at its
best,” Ken Cook, president of the Washington-based
Environmental Working Group, told reporters on a conference
call. “They are asking companies to err on the side of
According to EPA, PFOA can remain in the human body for up
to four years, and small amounts of the chemical are found in a
large portion of the general public.
DuPont said its studies and those of independent
researchers show that cookware and other consumer products made
with DuPont materials are safe. In addition, it said, PFOA to
date has had no known health effects on humans.
However, tests by 3M, the original manufacturer of PFOA,
have shown that high levels of exposure to the chemical may
cause liver damage and reproductive problems in rats.
Although its case with the EPA is settled, DuPont still
faces class-action lawsuits, filed last July, charging that the
chemical producer hid the potential health hazards of PFOA.
The plaintiffs are calling for DuPont to pay damages to
class members, create a fund for medical monitoring of
consumers who purchased products containing PFOA, and put
warning labels on cookware.
EPA sent letters to the eight companies and asks for their
commitment by March 1. Companies would then submit their 2000
baseline for emissions and product content by October 31 and
the EPA would monitor their progress in cutting releases of the
DuPont spokesman Cliff Webb said the company has already
reduced global emissions of PFOA by 94 percent. It will work to
cut levels of the compound in its products and in precursor
compounds that could break down into the compound, he said.
Sales from DuPont products that could be affected by
regulation on PFOA are $1 billion annually, the company has
said in financial disclosures.