Chemical giant DuPont is rushing to quell unease among Chinese consumers following reports that the US Environmental Protection Agency is taking administrative actions against the chemical giant.
In a rare press conference held on Tuesday in Beijing, Charles Browne, president of DuPont China Holding Company, said its Teflon coated non-stick cookware is not hazardous to human health and that the US agency's allegation had been misinterpreted by some Chinese media.
"The evidence from over 50 years of experience and extensive scientific studies supports our conclusion that PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid, or C-8) does not harm human health or the environment," Browne said.
PFOA is a chemical used to manufacture fluoropolymers, which are used to make non-stick cookware in China and around the world. PFOA is also used in a wide variety of other consumer and industrial applications, such as coatings for automobiles and aircraft.
Allegations of health risks in the US have stemmed from individuals and communities around production sites. Finished products are not expected to contain PFOA.
The EPA announced on July 8 that it would take administrative action against DuPont for failure to report information that PFOA may pose substantial risks to human health or the environment. The EPA found DuPont had failed to provide the results of its own tests and toxicological data on the chemical after a 1997 request from the agency.
DuPont intends to file a formal denial to the EPA complaint.
DuPont tests showed that PFOA was transmitted to the fetuses of eight pregnant women who worked in or near a company plant. Two of the infants had birth defects.
Traces of PFOA have been found in the 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.
An unnamed official at the State Administration of Environmental Protection's (SEPA) publicity and education office told China.org.cn that his administration is conducting a thorough investigation of the effects of PFOA on the environment. SEPA plans to issue a formal statement on the issue in the near future.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (QSIQ) said it is testing the safety of Teflon coating and expects results to be released in September. Browne said that DuPont is providing the agency all the tools necessary to verify that Teflon pans are safe.
DuPont representatives did not indicate at the press conference whether the company had also provided materials to SEPA.
Studies on workers in plants using PFOA and residents in surrounding areas 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.
DuPont has about 20 wholly owned or joint venture operations in China, including at least one that makes automobile coatings.
(China.org.cn and China Daily July 21, 2004)