In 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined chemical giant DuPont $16.5 million over its decades-long cover-up of the health hazards of a substance known as C8. One of a family of perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs1, C8 was a key ingredient in making Teflon, the non-stick, waterproof, stain-resistant “miracle of modern chemistry” used in thousands of consumer products including textiles.

Internal documents revealed DuPont had long 
known that C8, also known as PFOA, caused cancer and polluted the blood of people and animals worldwide. But the company never told its workers,local officials and residents, state regulators or the EPA. After the truth came out, research by federal officials and public interest groups found that the blood of almost all Americans was contaminated with PFCs, which passed readily from mothers to unborn babies in the womb. In 2006 the EPA confirmed that PFOA is a likely human carcinogen.

The 2005 fine against DuPont remains the largest 
ever levied by the EPA. DuPont did not admit guilt but promised to phase out production and use of C8/PFOA by this year – 2015.

The 2005 fine, settlement and phase-out were widely hailed as a public health victory and justice for the victims. But 10 years later, a new investigation shows that it remains uncertain whether Americans are safe from the threat of PFCs and whether justice will be done for the victims. Production, use and importation of PFOA has ended in the United States, but in its place DuPont and other companies are using similar compounds that may not be much – if at all – safer. These next generation PFCs are used in waterproof clothing and other products. Few have been tested for safety, and the names, composition and health effects of most are hidden as trade secrets. With the new PFCs’ potential for harm, continued global production, the chemicals’ persistence in the environment and presence in drinking water in at least 29 states, we’re a long way from the day when PFCs will be no cause for concern.

Concerned consumers should ask for verification from brands whether their products contain any PFC’s either PFOA, PFOS or the new generation PFCs (which are named as PFASs2)

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