Is enough being done to protect us from chemicals that could harm us? Watch “Toxic America,” a special two-night investigative report with Sanjay Gupta M.D., June 2 and 3 at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.
(CNN) — A growing body of research is linking five chemicals — among the most common in the world — to a host of ailments, including cancer, sexual problems and behavioral issues.
We encounter them every day — in plastic bottles, storage containers, food wrap, cans, cookware, appliances, carpets, shower curtains, clothes, personal care products, furniture, television sets, electronics, bedding, cushions and mattresses. In short, every room in almost every house in the United States is likely to contain at least one of these chemicals, many of which did not exist a century ago.
They are bisphenol A, or BPA; phthalates; PFOA; formaldehyde; and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PDBEs. Tests reveal most of us now carry them in our bodies, but are they putting our health — and the health of our children — in jeopardy?
Here’s what you should know about: …
PFOA — Perfluorooctanoic acid (also called C8)
What it does: PFOA is used to make Teflon and thousands of other nonstick and stain- and water-repellent products.
Where they’re found: PFOA is present in Teflon and other nonstick or stain- and water-repellent coatings as a trace impurity. These coatings are used on cookware, waterproof breathable clothing, furniture and carpets and in a myriad of industrial applications. PFOA can also be produced by the breakdown of these products.
How we’re exposed: Inhaling contaminated air, eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water. Some researchers say nonstick pans give off PFOA vapors, which contaminate food.
Health effects: Almost everyone has PFOA in his or her blood. PFOA causes cancer and developmental problems in laboratory animals. The EPA concludes research on PFOA is “suggestive of carcinogenicity but not sufficient to assess human carcinogenic potential.”
Regulation: PFOA is an EPA “chemical of concern.”
What you can do to reduce exposure: The EPA does not recommend any steps to reduce exposure to PFOA. You can reduce potential exposure by using stainless steel or cast iron cookware. If you use nonstick cookware, do not overheat, which releases toxic gas.