A chemical used in manufacturing Teflon is found in the bloodstreams of nearly everyone in the U.S., and now a new study suggests the potential carcinogen is present in many people at birth.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Center say the chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA, was found in nearly every blood sample taken from umbilical cords. Of 300 cords tested, 298 tested positive for PFOA, according to the study.
Doctors have known that the chemical is widespread in the environment. What they don?t know is whether it's toxic to people. An Environmental Protection Agency panel, which studied the chemical, has concluded PFOA is a likely carcinogen.
PFOA is manufactured by DuPont, which recently agreed to FDA demands to virtually eliminate any new emissions from its plants making Teflon by 2010. DuPont has already paid millions of dollars to settle lawsuits brought by residents who live near a Teflon plant in West Virginia.
The Environmental Protection Agency is also studying the effects of PFOA. The agency said it began its investigation because PFOA is very persistent in the environment, was being found at very low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population, and caused developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals.
Late last month the EPA asked all PFOA manufacturers to participate in a global "stewardship" program on PFOA and related chemicals.
Participating companies will be asked to commit to reducing PFOA from emissions and product content by 95 percent no later than 2010, and to work toward eliminating PFOA from emissions and product content no later than 2015.
The Environmental Working Group, a public interest watchdog, said major changes are needed in the way the government regulates potentially dangerous chemicals.
"The controlling law for these chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control Act, has left government regulators toothless, purblind, and overly dependent on volunteerism since it was first passed, in 1976. It is the only major modern environmental law that has not been comprehensively reauthorized since its original passage," the group said in a statement.