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Teflon may cause cancer

  1. Jun 29, 2005 #1

    saltydog

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    Just a news release I though you might be interested in:

    "A controversial chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid (where's my Merk?), used by DuPont Co. to make the nonstick substance Teflon poses more of a cancer risk than indicated in a draft assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency, an independent review board has found.

    In a draft report released Monday, the EPA scientific advisory board that reviewed the agency's report concluded that perfluoroctanoic acid is "likely" to be carcinogenic to humans, and that the EPA should conduct cancer risk assessments for a variety of tumors found in mice and rats."

    DuPont officials would not comment on the report but said in a prepared statement that human health and toxicology studies suggest that exposure to this chemical does not cause cancer in humans and does not pose a health risk to the general public.


    Yea right DuPont (is there a smiley-face for "I don't trust you further than I can spit!"?). I use stainless steel frying pans and just put up with the stick. :yuck:
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2005
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  3. Jun 29, 2005 #2

    Moonbear

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    There have been quite a few issues with chemicals used in the manufacture of Teflon and of products released by its breakdown at high temperatures. I haven't gone around reading everything available, but the general gist of it seems that Teflon itself is not harmful (it has been put into enough medical devices that clinical studies on those devices should be picking up on that risk by now if it's a high enough risk to be concerned about), but if you do something like overheat a Teflon pan (over 500 degrees F), it will give off toxic compounds, (I'm aware of their implication in causing infertility in men). It's not clear what dose or level of exposure you would need for those compounds to cause a problem, and if burning a single pan would be a problem. So, when they say they do not pose a risk to the general public, so far, that seems to be the case.

    However, as an occupational exposure risk, in other words, the health risks to their employees working in the factories where Teflon is produced and coated onto products, there is a good deal of concern about these compounds. There is also concern about water contamination with a number of compounds near the factory location.

    As for specific claims on this specific compound, I don't know. You didn't cite your source for what you posted here. Please add that, preferably with a link if it came from a news story.
     
  4. Jun 29, 2005 #3
    Here is the latest NIH Report on Carcinogens:

    http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/index.cfm?objectid=32BA9724-F1F6-975E-7FCE50709CB4C932

    You will notice several items on that list that are commonly used in food products, cosmetics and other household items. It may be no coincidence that since the development of organic chemistry we have been struck by a "cancer epidemic".

    I have noticed over the years that there are many known carcinogens not on the list (ethidium bromide for example).

    It would not surprise me if the compound that you mentioned were a carcinogen. Here is some information on the compound:

    http://chemfinder.cambridgesoft.com/result.asp

    Notice the halogens all over the place, one would expect this to be a very reactive compound.

    Here's the MSDS:

    http://ptcl.chem.ox.ac.uk/MSDS/PE/pentadecafluorooctanoic_acid.html

    On the other hand, none of the perflurocarbons are known to be carcinogenic, infact some of them are being researched into whether they make cancer cells more susceptable to radiation. (Perfluorocarbons have also been proposed as possible 'artificial blood' since they complex oxygen so well. They were used in that movie 'The Abyss' where they breathed liquid - this is currently done for premature infants with poor lung development).
     
  5. Jun 29, 2005 #4

    Evo

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    I can't find a new article to match what you posted. Please post the link, both for copyright reasons and so we can see the new article. I found something similar in the Washington Post.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2005
  6. Jun 29, 2005 #5

    Moonbear

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    Which items on that list are commonly used in food products? And why would you single out organic compounds when there are inorganic compounds on that list as well. It's tough to claim a cancer "epidemic" as though cancer is something new when we keep getting better at diagnosing it better and sooner. We can now diagnose people with cancers that are so slow growing and detected in such a late stage of their life that they will die WITH the cancer, not OF it; in the past, these people would have never been identified as having cancer, so the increased reporting is hard to justify as an increased incidence.

    The reason for this is explained in the introduction to the report:
    Reactive doesn't necessarily mean carcinogenic. If it wasn't reactive, it probably wouldn't have much value as a component in the manufacturing of anything.
     
  7. Jun 29, 2005 #6
    i will go through the list and try to remember the ones that i have found in the past.


    Yes, of course inorganic compounds can cause cancer but the vast majority of carcinogens are organic.

    Well, this is debateable since we didn't have scientific papers on the subject until the late 1800's and even then they saw this as a new disease.

    Not necessarily but it is highly likely that carcinogenic compounds are more reactive. Reactive compounds are most likely to form covalent bonds with things like DNA and proteins, especially the planar molecules that will intercalate the strands. I did not just make this up, you can look up the subject of mechanisms of carcinogenicity - I'm not going to do this because I just finished a semester course on this very topic. Halogenated substances are more likely to form free radicals that can cause oxidation damage leading to advanced aging and cancer..one mechanism by which this can happen is the damage of pro-apoptotic proteins in the mitochondria, where oxidation damage is increased.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2005
  8. Jun 29, 2005 #7

    saltydog

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    Alright, alright. I didn't expect you guys to be asking me all that. I kinda changed a few words in the quotes to make it more clear. Is that not alright?

    I got it off of MSNBC I'm pretty sure. Here's the link:

    Link to teflon story

    Moonbear, thanks for qualifying my statements about Teflon. I was runnin' ragged and you put in into calm perspectives. Thank you. :smile:

    I am annoyed however at many examples in the past where companies have "downplayed" the hazards of their "product" only to be forced to admit such only after many have suffered. I'm not saying DuPont is doing that, I'm only saying I'm suspicious.
     
  9. Jun 29, 2005 #8

    Evo

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    Anytime you use "quotes" and or say it's from an article we need to have the link for copyright purposes. Usually I will try to find the article myself and edit it in, but I couldn't find anything that matched.

    Aren't the fumes from a burning teflon pan lethal to birds?

    There are so many things that have been widely used, then found out to be health risks. Aluminum pots and pans are linked to alzheimers, but I think anodized aluminum is ok? I should check since I use them.
     
  10. Jun 30, 2005 #9

    Moonbear

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    I agree that it's reasonable to be suspicious when it's the company who has a stake in the product making the safety claims. Some of the same comments DocToxyn made in the aspartame toxicity thread would apply here as well, in terms of assessing the risk of substances. Even if it's not a carcinogen, it doesn't mean it's safe either, but I suspect DuPont's statement is really trying to prevent people from panicking about Teflon itself when the chemical in question is a compound used in its manufacture. Again, taking a look at the aspartame thread gives an idea of the sort of damage that can occur from being too quick to claim a compound is hazardous as much as from not admitting a compound is hazardous when it is determined it is.

    Clearly, erring too far in either direction can be harmful, either to those being harmed by a substance that needs to be regulated further, or to those who are put out of jobs and/or have products removed from the market that are beneficial to their health and/or quality of life. Teflon is one of those particularly tough cases where it is in such widespread use that not only is it virtually impossible to avoid it if it is a problem, but removing it from the market would take away a large number of medical devices, everything from joint replacements to arterial catheters/shunts. We could live without non-stick pans and stain-free carpets, but in the medical field, people really can't live without many of the Teflon-containing devices. So, this really means there isn't a safe direction that caution would tell us is better for erring. So, the best we really can do is continue the research and wait to see what the results indicate.

    Of course, what's interesting when I looked at the list of carcinogens identified by the EPA is that there are compounds on the list such as cisplatin and tamoxifen, the first is a chemotherapeutic compound commonly used to treat cancer, and the second is an anti-estrogen (estrogen is also listed as carcinogenic) that is used in treating certain hormone-responsive cancers, especially breast cancers. So, we just have to be careful how quickly we jump to conclusions that something is bad when the same compound can both treat cancer and cause cancer.
     
  11. Jun 30, 2005 #10

    saltydog

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    Alright Moonbear. Very nicely put. I yield. I also remember melting two pans on the stove; one dropping little fire-balls of liquid metal on the floor as I ran to put it outside. Bet that one got to 500 degrees. :smile:

    Edit: Oh yea, caught the other one before it melted . . . still, was pushing 500 I bet. :surprised
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2005
  12. Jun 30, 2005 #11

    Moonbear

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    Yes, that would be well over 500 degrees. That's really the time when people are exposed to nasty stuff. Though, how often does one do that in their life (if it's often, I think it's time to stay out of the kitchen!) I also still don't know if there's enough toxic gas given off from a single frying pan, especially when quickly diluted into room air (and usually you also quickly turn on a vent fan and open every window and door after a grease fire to get the smoke out), so I just don't know if there's even an appreciable risk there. I think it may be more an issue when there's a house fire and firefighters are going in with potential exposure to burning carpets, couches, everything in the kitchen, etc. Though, there are so many toxins being released at that point that it would be hard to blame just one for anything.

    So, anyway, I'm not really refuting the possibility that that compound could be carcinogenic, I don't know. Just want to be clear that it's probably not worth panicking and gutting your house of all Teflon products.
     
  13. Jul 21, 2005 #12
    Check out this article, it's more informative.

    Teflon accusation doesn't stick
    Michael Fumento
    July 21, 2005
    Teflon has long been a godsend in the kitchen. It’s easier to cook with, since foods don’t stick. It’s easier to wash – and easier on the environment – since it requires less detergent and no dishwasher energy. And it’s easier on the heart and the waistline, since it eliminates the need for cooking in lots of oil, butter or margarine.
    Yet Teflon has recently gone from the frying pan into the fire, thanks to some money-hungry lawyers. They’ve cooked up a scary story, adding a dollop of hyperbole for good measure. Unfortunately, they left out common sense and science.

    For the rest of the article go to - http://www.townhall.com/columnists/GuestColumns/Fumento20050721.shtml
     
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