The “miracles of science” has brought on an era of super materials that are unaffected by extreme conditions and provide us many overlooked benefits that are a part of our everyday life. Clothing that resists open fire and moisture, gasses used to fuel your automobiles air conditioner, to plastics that release that fried egg from the fry pan with perfection. These discoveries made by DuPont can arguably yield some of the most significant products made by man in the 21st century. One among the many products, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, aka Teflon) is a synthetic fluoropolymer that can be used in a wide range of products. It’s extremely low coefficient of friction, and very hydrophobic and lipophobic characteristics are highly desired in its uses in non-stick coatings in cookware, and food packaging such as microwave popcorn bags. This characteristic is the cause of the aggregate effect of carbon-flouride bonds.
As nearly every house hold has a non-stick pan being put to use on a daily basis, the safety of such a product should have been researched and presented when it was first developed in the 40s. It took nearly 50 years for any real concern of pyrolysis of PTFE to emerge to the public. Even now the effects of off-gases emitted from PTFE are still largely a mystery. Although many studies reveal that several gases are emitted, such as Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and Perfluoroisobutene (PFIB), the effects of these gasses from a toxicological standpoint is still a mystery to the public and unregulated by the EPA.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluoroisobutene (PFIB), are of the Perfluorinated compounds (PFC) family that refer to a class of organofluorine compounds that have all hydrogens replaced with fluorine on a carbon chain. PFOA is one of the most studied PFCs and is considered a global contaminant. Every living being and environment is exposed to PFOA in trace amounts. This wouldn’t not be much of a problem if it were biodegradable. In the environment this substance does not degrade over time and simply accumulates, increasing concentration. More importantly, the body has a very hard time excreting this substance making it bioaccumulitave, and has a half life of an average of 4.37 years (EPA 2003). Within the last 5 years the effects of PFOA have been of concern and have received attention from the EPA. After a few lawsuits to DuPont, the EPA recently set limits of PFOA found in drinking water to 0.4 ug/L (EPA 2009). Currently there still is no LC50 number has been released for PFOA. Even though PFOA is the most studied PCF there is still a lot of information needed to conclusively determine its dose response effects on humans.
Perfluoroisobutene (PFIB) is another off-gas that is emmited in the pyrolysis of Teflon that is known as a very harmful to humans. Its ability to be ineffective to one that is wearing a protective charcoal mask classifies it as a Schedule 2 substance of the Chemical Weapons...