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Warnings on Teflon products not required

By Callie Lyons,

Even though some area consumers think it may be a good idea to put warning labels on non-stick pots and pans, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission decided there is not enough evidence of danger to human health.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission denied a petition to put the warning labels on items that use the substance known as Teflon.

The decision is relevant to Mid-Ohio Valley citizens because one of the ingredients in Teflon is a chemical with the trade name of C8. It is that chemical that is used at DuPont's Washington, W.Va., Works plant, and the chemical has found its way into several area water systems.

The decision not to put on the warning labels was welcomed by DuPont, which says the chemical has no harmful effect on human health. But it was not supported by those who believe the chemical is harmful.

"We were not supplied with enough data to demonstrate a human health risk," said Ken Giles, commission spokesman, about why the warning labels were not approved. "That doesn't mean we are not looking at the issue."

The commission will continue to participate in the Environmental Protection Agency's investigation into the toxicity of the PFOA family of chemicals which is used to manufacture Teflon.

"We were pleased to learn of the commission's decision and feel that it reinforces DuPont's position that cookware made with Teflon non-stick coating is totally safe for consumer and commercial use," said Clif Webb, DuPont spokesman.

The DuPont plant has used and emitted C8 for 50 years and company officials say no harmful health effects have been observed in that time.

EPA studies reveal that the chemical, which causes developmental and reproductive problems in laboratory animals, can be found in the bloodstream of more than 90 percent of Americans.

One finding is that the chemical does affect the health of birds, and that was an issue considered by the commission.

"There is the issue of birds dying," Giles said. "But they need to show a risk of human health hazards."

Giles said a petition for warning labels must demonstrate a clear health risk with specific recommendations for federal regulations and evidence that the regulations and warning labels would reduce the health risk.

The request or the labels was made by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based environmental action group.

Giles said the door was open for the group to return with a new petition for warning labels when more information becomes available.

Dr. Kris Thayer of the Environmental Working Group expressed disappointment with the commission's decision.

"It's ironic that the CPSC can't study the toxicity of Teflon cookware until we have more victims of polymer fume fever," Thayer said. "Shouldn't we do studies and find out what studies companies have already done, before people get sick, rather than after?"

Thayer said human health data is exactly what the EPA investigation is aiming to uncover.

"I hope that the federal investigation of PFOA will reveal more information about the dangers of Teflon chemicals to people," Thayer said.

In the meantime, people like Debra Cochran of Pageville are still waiting for a determination on the risks of C8, which has been detected in her family's Tuppers Plains drinking water supply. Like many area citizens, she is closely following the debate over whether the chemical is harmful, and she has strong feelings about DuPont.

"A cover-up has already occurred for many years," Cochran said. "DuPont has known of the hazards of C8 for many years and refused to acknowledge its existence or do anything about it."


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