Engineering News

US asks co's to slash output of Teflon compound
Wed Jan 25, 2006 06:15 PM ET

NEW YORK, Jan 25 (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 caution."

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 Oct. 31 and the EPA would monitor their progress in cutting releases of the compound.

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.

Source: Reuters

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