Teflon replacement chemical causes cancer in animals, reports reveal

GenX, introduced in 2009 as a substitute for Teflon’s toxic PFOA, doesn't seem safe at all.

When a massive class-action lawsuit brought the toxic nature of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to public light, DuPont set their sights on a safer replacement for the surfactant that was a key ingredient in Teflon, that which gives the non-stick to non-stick cookware and other sticky things. In 2009 the company introduced GenX, touting it as having a “more favorable toxicological profile” than PFOA (also known as C8). Yet at the same time, DuPont filed 16 reports of “substantial risk of injury to health or the environment” about its new chemical, according to investigative reporting by The Intercept.

“The reports, discovered in the course of an investigation by The Intercept, were filed under Section 8 (e) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and submitted to the EPA between April 2006 and January 2013,” writes Sharon Lerner. “They cite numerous health effects in animals, including changes in the size and weight of animals’ livers and kidneys, alterations to their immune responses and cholesterol levels, weight gain, reproductive problems, and cancer.”

It’s crazy – DuPont actually submitted reports siting cancerous tumors in the liver, pancreas, and testicles of rats from exposure to GenX. Some rats in the same experiment also developed benign tumors, as well as kidney disease, liver degeneration, and uterine polyps.

DuPont’s take on this? It was animals, not people, so no biggie. (Although last time I checked people were animals, too, but what do I know?) One researcher who signed the report downplayed the results by saying that “these tumor findings are not considered relevant for human risk assessment.” Much like what DuPont scientists said about testicular tumors in lab animals from PFOA before it was linked to testicular cancer in people.

(Also, if findings in rats are not considered relevant for human risk assessment, why in the world are we torturing the poor things?)

“It’s the same constellation of effects you see with PFOA,” said Deborah Rice, a retired toxicologist who served as a senior risk assessor in the National Center for Environmental Assessment at the EPA. “There’s no way you can call this a safe substitute.”

Alan Ducatman, a physician who studies the health effects of these types of chemicals, told The Intercept that the news of GenX hazards “all has an eerie echo.” He writes that GenX has the same trio of biological effects – on the liver, immunity, and the processing of fats – seen with similar chemicals, including C8. “This reminds me a lot of a path we have recently traveled. That journey is not ending well.”

Indeed, not well at all. Sharon Lerner digs deep and uncovers a whole dark tangled mess about GenX, a chemical that is neither regulated nor tracked by the EPA, but which is being produced and released nonetheless ... and is known to cause cancer in animals. Read all the nitty-gritty at The Intercept ... and embrace your cast irons pans.

Tags: Chemicals | Toxins

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