By any of these names the synthetic chemical is equally toxic, but scientists are still evaluating exactly how toxic it is. Studies already completed indicate that PFOA, a fluoropolymer, can cause developmental and other adverse health effects in laboratory animals.
PFOA is very persistent in the environment and is found at low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population but it is not currently regulated under federal environmental laws.
PFOA has been used since the 1950s at DuPont's Washington Works plant on the bank of the Ohio River in Parkersburg. Today the plant manufactures hundreds of products for the automotive industry, including more than 50 products using TeflonŽ manufactured in the fluoropolymers area of the plant - the same material used to coat cookware.
A new set of nonstick cookware (Photo credit unknown)
Under terms of the consent order, DuPont will offer connection to a public water system, treatment, or temporary bottled water to people on public or private water systems when the level of PFOA in water supplies reaches 0.40 parts per billion.
This action level replaces the 0.50 ppb threshold established under a November 2006 EPA consent order with DuPont.
Based on current data, approximately 14 private residences may need a treatment system or connection to a public water system.
Also, DuPont will take additional samples of private drinking water wells that were installed after 2006 and sample in some previously untested areas.
EPA's Office of Water issued a Provisional Health Advisory in January for PFOA that establishes a reasonable, health-based value above which action should be taken to reduce exposure to PFOA in drinking water.
The time frame for action is short-term, meaning weeks to months, the agency said. This Provisional Health Advisory prompted the new consent order to lower the allowable concentration of PFOA in drinking water from 0.50 ppb to 0.40 ppb in communities near the Washington Works facility.
EPA's Provisional Health Advisory used new and different information than was used to calculate the 2006 action level. The new action level is intended to reduce levels of PFOA exposure for residents while EPA completes research required for the national PFOA risk assessment which is currently underway.
Based on the risk assessment, EPA will take action as necessary to further protect public health.
Major companies using PFOA, including DuPont, have joined EPA's PFOA Stewardship Program. Members of the program have committed to reduce PFOA from emissions and products content by 95 percent by 2010 and to work toward eliminating PFOA emissions and content by 2015.
As of the end of 2006, the EPA says, DuPont had reduced annual air discharges of the chemical from the Washington Works facility by 99.1 percent and had reduced annual water discharges by 99.2 percent since 2000.
Residents who have questions about this order or PFOA can call EPA's hotline at 866-575-8543.
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