What It Is
PFOA stands for Perfluorooctanoic Acid, also called C8. It’s a perfluoralkyl substance (PFAS). There are currently more than 3,000 individual PFASs in the global marketplace (Wang et al. 2017). While PFOA has largely been phased out of use, it has been replaced by PFASs with similar properties. PFOA can also still be found in older consumer products in which it was used before phase-out.
PFOA is used in household goods including non-stick coatings like Gore-Tex or cookware (think Teflon), or in carpet and furniture that have been treated to be stain resistant.
The Health Concerns
PFOA is persistent (which means it stays in the environment) and bioaccumulative (stays in the human body for long periods of time). It’s also an endocrine disruptor linked to cancer. In addition, it’s ubiquitous: a 2007 study from the CDC found PFOA in the blood of 99.7% of Americans. After a class-action lawsuit that revealed PFOA’s links to cancer and other diseases, DuPont (PFOA’s major producer) made a deal with the EPA to phase out its use beginning in 2006—however, this doesn’t mean that PFOA has disappeared from consumer products. It’s a good idea to try to reduce your exposure where you can.
How to Avoid It
- Switch from non-stick cookware to cast iron or stainless steel.
- Try to avoid stain-resistant materials where possible, including clothing, carpets, and furniture.
- Look for the MADE SAFE seal, as PFOA is not permitted in certified products.