Cleaning & Restoration Breaking News

EPA Widens Investigation of Chemical

April 18, 2003
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WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - A chemical widely used in the manufacture of cookware, clothing, cosmetics and a range of other products is being scrutinized by the Environmental Protection Agency to see if it poses a risk to women of child-bearing age and younger.

The EPA began on Monday soliciting public comments on an interim agency assessment, showing that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts may result in developmental problems.

As part of the action, the EPA also invited industry representatives, environmentalists and other interested parties to negotiate a consent decree aimed at controlling the environmental release of so-called fluorinated telomers that may metabolize or degrade into PFOA.

PFOA is used in the manufacture of fluoropolymers that are found in many products, including non-stick coatings used on cookware, although the finished products do not contain PFOA, according to the EPA.

"PFOA may also be a degradation product of small polymers called telomers, which are used in a range of commercial products including fire fighting foams, as well as soil, stain and grease resistant coatings on carpets, textiles, paper, and leather," according to the federal agency.

It has been shown to persist once released into the environment, and according to federal figures, can be detected in the vast majority of Americans.

The EPA began the interim assessment last year after a study conducted by the chemical-making conglomerate 3M found that laboratory rats exposed to the synthetic chemical lost weight and had offspring that were more likely to die prematurely.

3M has since ceased manufacturing PFOA and stopped making a number of its well-known stain-guard products.

Current manufacturers include chemical conglomerate DuPont and three overseas companies.

The EPA said that one of its goals was to develop a more complete risk assessment and to investigate the chemical's potential link to other risks, such as cancer.

The agency said it would accept public comments for the next 30 days and would hold a public meeting on June 6 to discuss the initiative.

In a statement, DuPont noted that the chemical is used in hundreds of consumer products but said it would support the EPA initiative and plans to submit additional research for review.

Consumer advocates, on the other hand, charged the EPA with dragging its feet and called for an immediate ban.

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