Researchers have discovered that a wide variety of stain-resistant products contain volatile compounds that can escape and break down into perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This indestructible chemical has been accumulating in humans and wildlife, and it has been shown to harm laboratory animals. In related news, the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday asked major manufacturers of these compounds to cut their use by 95% over the next 4 years.
PFOA is used in the process of manufacturing polymers that can repel stains, keep grease on the inside of fast food wrappers, and improve the properties of polishes, paints, and hair-care products. Environmental scientists and regulators are worried because PFOA and related chemicals don’t break down, and they cause cancer and developmental effects in lab animals. The environmental puzzle is that PFOA itself is not found in consumer products.