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U.S. Urged to Put Warning Labels on Teflon Pans
Fri May 16, 2003 11:52 AM ET
By Christopher Doering

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An environmental group on Thursday asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require that cookware coated with Teflon and similar chemicals carry a label describing potential health risks of the non-stick coating.

The Environmental Working Group said in a study released on Thursday that cookware coated with Teflon-like coatings could reach 700 degrees Fahrenheit in 3-5 minutes, releasing 15 toxic gases and chemicals, including two carcinogens.

In its study, the advocacy group said that internal documents from DuPont Co., which produces Teflon, show that toxic particles that can kill birds are given off at temperatures as low as 464 degrees.

Because of the threat to birds, and possibly humans, each pan should carry a label detailing the potential health risks, the advocacy group said.

Studies investigating the long-term impacts on humans have not been conducted. Still, Teflon and other nonstick chemicals can lead to flu-like symptoms such as fever or shortness of breath, a condition called polymer fume fever.

"If Teflon fumes kill birds, what do they do to people?" said Jane Houlihan, a vice president with the Environmental Working Group who said consumers often exceed 500 degrees Fahrenheit when they cook.

DuPont has long acknowledged that cookware heated below 500 degrees is harmful to birds, but not humans because the chemical has not yet begun to break apart.

A company official said it is not safe to use cookware in temperatures above 500 degrees, and most consumers rarely exceed this level while cooking as the group argued.

"We know of no adverse conditions or long-term affects associated with polymer fume fever, and if that were the case, we would have known about it and would have reported it," said Cliff Web, a spokesman for DuPont.

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency launched an in-depth study to determine the safety of chemical C8, which is used in hundreds of products including Teflon.

Government officials said toxicity concerns have been raised, but there is currently no proof the chemical causes developmental or reproductive harm in humans as the Environmental Working Group and others have argued.

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