Long-term exposure to a chemical compound used in nonstick coatings for products like pans, fast-food wrappers and firefighting foam, even in trace amounts, appears to be dangerous to humans, according to a draft released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The chemical compound known as GenX was designed to be safer than previous stick- and stain-resistant compounds, known as PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalyl substances). The older versions have been found in dangerous levels in drinking water supplies across the country. That family of chemicals has been phased out of manufacturing in the U.S. due to health concerns.
But EPA’s draft indicates that the newer compound, called GenX, is just as – if not more – dangerous than PFAS compounds. Animal studies suggest GenX can affect the kidneys, blood, immune system, liver and developing fetuses.
“The data are suggestive of cancer,” the draft report stated.
GenX is used in Teflon as well as other materials. Chemours Co. manufactures the compound in North Carolina. Authorities say they have found GenX in water supplies downstream from the plant, which has raised additional public health concerns. There are no current federal health standards for GenX, and the EPA says more research is needed, calling the compound an “emerging contaminant.”
GenX is related to other chemicals like PFOA, which has been linked to health problems. In February 2017, Chemours and DuPont agreed to pay more than $671 million to settle thousands of lawsuits involving the release of PFOA from the companies’ West Virginia plant more than 10 years ago.
U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican whose district covers the affected areas of North Carolina, said he is waiting on the EPA’s management plan. “I encourage swift action to help the state better understand what we need to do going forward to keep our water clean and our citizens safe,” he said.