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Teflon to Be Tested for Safety

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (QSIQ) will test Teflon, a product widely used on cookware, in the wake of reports from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it may pose health hazards.


The EPA announced on July 8 that it would take administrative action against DuPont for multiple failures to report information about substantial risk of injury to human health or the environment from the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, or C8). PFOA is an essential component in the manufacture of fluoropolymers, which are used in a wide variety of consumer and industrial applications, including non-stick surfaces on cookware, and coatings for automobiles and aircraft.


Finished products are not expected to contain PFOA. Allegations of health risks in the US have stemmed from individuals and communities around production sites.


“We will start tests soon because China is a huge market for the multinational,” said a press officer with QSIQ.


A public relations official from DuPont China said the company will cooperate with Chinese authorities and make available any necessary documents. She also indicated that DuPont is not the only company using the chemical in question.


The EPA found DuPont had failed to provide the results of its own tests and all of the toxicological data it had gathered on the chemical after a 1997 request from the agency.


It said that DuPont had conducted tests that showed PFOA was transmitted to the fetuses of eight pregnant women who worked in or near a company plant. One of the infants had a confirmed birth defect, and another had an unconfirmed birth defect. Additionally, traces of the chemical have been found in public drinking water in communities near DuPont facilities. Individual and class action lawsuits have been filed against the company alleging personal and property damage resulting from the contamination.


The US agency requires chemical makers to notify it of any information showing that a chemical poses substantial risk to health and the environment.


DuPont argues that it has fully complied with statutory reporting requirements and disputes any association between PFOA and harmful effects on human health. The company plans to file a formal denial within 30 days.


“DuPont has provided substantial information to EPA supporting our conclusion that we have followed the law,” said DuPont General Counsel Stacey J. Mobley. “We will take action to respond to the agency’s complaint and will vigorously defend our position.” Mobley insisted that the EPA’s allegation is “not about the safety of our products, but about administrative reporting.”


Studies have shown that PFOA builds up in human blood, does not break down in the environment and may cause such health problems as liver damage, reproductive and developmental defects and cancer.


US company 3M, which was a major producer of PFOA, announced in 2000 that it would stop making the chemical.


DuPont has nearly 20 wholly owned or joint venture operations in China.


(China.org.cn, China Daily July 13, 2004)

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