Here’s a mouthful: Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a chemical used to manufacture nonstick and stain-resistant materials.
A little over a decade ago, nonstick Teflon pans dominated the cookware market. The problem with Teflon pans, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes and fabrics manufactured with man-made chemicals such as PFOAs is that potentially harmful chemicals are released into the environment when these products are made.
And the chemicals have found their way into our bloodstreams. A 2007 study found chemicals in the same family as PFOAs present in more than 98 percent of more than 2,000 blood samples analyzed. The health effects of these elevated blood levels are not yet understood.
In 2006, eight companies agreed to eliminate PFOAs in the manufacturing of nonstick pans by 2015. Yet problems with PFOAs persist. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a warning earlier this year, telling water-system operators to monitor PFOA levels in their water supplies. Teflon pans are but one example of how the revolution in man-made chemicals has had unintended consequences.