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C8 also found in some McDonald's packaging

By Callie Lyons,

McDonald's corporation officials confirmed the suspicion of an environmental research group that a C8-related chemical is widely used in fast food packaging throughout the industry. The information may eventually help scientists explain how the manufacturing chemical they call PFOA has found its way into the bloodstream of more than 90 percent of Americans.

"As is the case throughout the food service industry, our suppliers use telomers in limited coating applications for some of our packaging," said Julie Pottebaum, McDonald's spokeswoman.

The McDonald's Corporation is one of four fast food chains responding to a challenge from the Environmental Working Group based in Washington, D.C., to release information about the types of chemically coated food packaging material used in their restaurants. A total of nine popular restaurant corporations were asked for the information, but most were unprepared to answer questions about their chemically coated packaging.

"The EPA has communicated that it does not believe there is any reason for consumers to stop using any consumer- or industrial-related products," Pottebaum said. "McDonald's packaging is in complete compliance with all regulations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We look to these experts for direction and leadership on these matters."

The scientific research and advocacy coalition known as the Environmental Working Group is closely following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's investigation of the manufacturing chemical PFOA, locally familiar by the DuPont trade name C8.

The Teflon-related chemical C8 has been a topic of interest in the Mid-Ohio Valley since it was first detected in Washington County water supplies in January 2002, likely a result of emissions from the DuPont plant in Washington, W.Va., across the Ohio River from western Washington County.

People who live in the affected areas, such as Debra Cocran of Pageville, were upset to discover the presence of C8 in their water systems last year and can't help but wonder how else they might be exposed to the manufacturing chemical.

"I don't eat a lot of fast food, but I want to know what products may be related," Cochran said.

DuPont officials are assuring their customers of the safety of their products. They say the chemical presents no harm to humans, but it has been found to cause reproductive and developmental problems in laboratory animals.

"Our safety assurances to customers serving the food industry are based on extensive knowledge of the products we sell and many years of regulatory review and approval by the federal government," said DuPont spokesman Clif Webb in a statement released last week.

The Environmental Working Group has long suspected that many types of food packaging commonly used by fast food restaurants are coated with chemicals called fluorinated telomers, which perform similarly to those found in the non-stick substance known as Teflon. C8 is used to manufacture fluorinated polymers such as Teflon. While fluorinated telomers, commonly found in grease- and stain-repellent products, do not contain PFOA or C8, studies indicate they can biodegrade into PFOA.

As part of its ongoing investigation, the EPA is working toward voluntary agreements with industry representatives that would yield tests to answer questions about the toxicity and fate of the manufacturing chemical PFOA. Specifically, they are trying to discover the pathways that have already led to prevalent detectable exposure throughout the U.S. population. #


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