From: Gary Gentile, Associated Press
Published February 23, 2006 12:00 AM

Steelworkers Lead Teflon Chemical Warnings

LOS ANGELES — A coalition including the United Steelworkers and several environmental groups is asking the state to list a chemical used in the production of Teflon and other products as a cancer-causing substance.

The groups have filed a petition with the state under Proposition 65, a 1986 law that requires companies to notify the public about potentially dangerous toxins.

If successful, California could mandate warnings to consumers who buy cooking equipment, outdoor wear, microwave popcorn bags and other products made using perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA. Last week, a group of scientific advisers to the Environmental Protection Agency recommended that the chemical should be considered a likely carcinogen.

The chemical's sole manufacturer in the U.S. is Delaware-based DuPont Co., which also uses the chemical to make Teflon, a nonstick coating used in cookware, clothing and other products.

The coalition argued Wednesday that animal tests on the chemical meet the guidelines to be considered a toxic substance under California law.

Other groups in the coalition include the Sierra Club, the Environmental Working Group, the Environmental Law Foundation, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Environment California.

DuPont said it would fight the petition effort and said consumers are in no danger.

Earlier this year, the EPA asked DuPont and other chemical companies to voluntarily reduce environmental releases and levels of PFOA in products by 95 percent no later than 2010 and to eliminate PFOA from emissions and products by no later than 2015.

Last week, the EPA's Science Advisory Board recommended that the chemical be upgraded from its current status as a "suggested carcinogen" to a "likely carcinogen." That recommendation has not yet been adopted by the EPA.

The coalition said it was pursuing the California petition as a way to prod the EPA and DuPont into eliminating the use of PFOA sooner. Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, which represents 1,800 DuPont workers, said the current EPA effort was too weak.

"That's not the kind of regulatory system we need," Gerard said on a conference call. "It leaves people to bear the risk of industry's bad decisions and makes laws like Proposition 65 even more important."

DuPont called the effort "inappropriate and unwarranted."

The company noted that it has agreed to join the EPA's efforts to eliminate emissions and reduce trace levels of the chemical in its consumer products. But it said there is no science to suggest that consumers who use Teflon-coated cookware or other products are in danger.

"The consumer products that are out there are safe for consumer use," David Boothe, global business manager of DuPont Fluoroproducts, said Wednesday. "We believe this is an environmental issue, not a consumer safety issue."

Source: Associated Press

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