Johns Hopkins Teflon Dangers Report

This recent Associated Press posting is of interest.

Suspected Carcinogen Found in Cord Blood

BALTIMORE: A suspected carcinogen used to make Teflon was found in nearly all the umbilical cord blood samples tested by researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The researchers are now trying to determine whether it has harmed the newborns.

Of the 300 newborns tested, perfluorooctanoic acid, was found in the cord blood of 298.

“It’s very clear that PFOA is being released into the environment, and it’s pretty much ubiquitous. But we don’t know if it’s toxic to people at these levels,” said Dr. Lynn Goldman, one of the Hopkins researchers.

A review panel advising the federal Environmental Protection Agency has found PFOA is a likely carcinogen.

Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont is the sole North American producer of PFOA, which is a processing aid used in the manufacturing of fluoropolymers, which have a wide variety of product applications, including nonstick cookware coatings such as Teflon. The chemical also can be a byproduct in the manufacturing of fluorotelomers used in surface protection products for applications such as stain-resistant textiles and grease-resistant food wrapping.

In December, DuPont agreed to pay $10.25 million in fines and $6.25 million for environmental projects to settle the EPA’s allegations that the company withheld information about the potential health and environmental risks of PFOA.

DuPont also agreed in September 2004 to fund a two-phase health screening to settle a 2001 class-action lawsuit filed by Ohio and West Virginia residents who receive their water from six water districts. The lawsuit claimed PFOA releases from DuPont’s Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, W.Va., contaminated public water supplies.

The company has maintained the chemical does not represent a human health risk.

Previous studies have found PFOA in the blood of most Americans, but the Hopkins study is the largest independent research to look at newborns. Newborns may be more vulnerable to the chemical, which can affect hormone levels, researchers say.

In the Hopkins study, the researchers collected umbilical cord blood samples over a five-month period beginning in late 2004. They are now working with researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a commercial laboratory to analyze the samples further. They are hoping to determine whether the newborn infant’s thyroid hormone levels are normal, among other things, researcher Rolf Halden said.

The Hopkins researchers also are comparing other factors, including the birth weight of the babies and the rate of premature birth. The findings are expected in a few months, Halden said.

How PFOA, which has been found in many places worldwide, including polar bears, gets into the bloodstream is not known.

“It’s a mystery right now,” said Dr. Frank Witter, medical director of labor and delivery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a partner in the study. “At some point, with more research, we may be able to say something more than ‘it’s just there.’ But we have not finished that analysis yet.”
Posted by Kurma on 11/2/06; 6:48:19 AM

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