Panel calls chemical a 'likely carcinogen'

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
A chemical used to make Teflon, Gore-Tex and stain-resistant coatings is more likely to cause cancer than the government has previously acknowledged, according to a scientific panel.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, is a "likely carcinogen" according to an advisory board to the Environmental Protection Agency. The science panel's pronouncement is the first step in a process that could result in the agency regulating or even banning some uses of the popular manufacturing agent.

The independent science board disagrees with a risk assessment of PFOA that the EPA drafted and released earlier this year in which the chemical was described as a "suggested" carcinogen.

Board members reviewing that report found PFOA to be of greater concern and advised the agency to conduct cancer-risk assessments on liver, breast, testicular and pancreas tumors in exposed animals.

Health and environmental experts have raised red flags about PFOA because of its pervasiveness. Tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found PFOA in the blood of 95% of Americans, though researchers don't yet know how it's getting there.

PFOA is used in the manufacture of Teflon coatings on pans. It is also found in widely used coatings that make upholstery and clothing stain-resistant and in a grease-resistant coating on microwave popcorn and fast-food packaging among others.

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