A new fluorocarbon food risk?

Years ago, there were concerns raised about the safety of Teflon ™ nonstick frying pans. Teflon’s maker, DuPont denies this claim, but does admit that high heat will cause the release of toxic fumes. Opponents claim this dangerous temperature is 350 degrees F., a medium flame. DuPont says 660 degrees.

Nowadays, there’s a new unseen chemical risk in the kitchen: perfluorooctanoic acid or POFA, according to an article in The New York Times.

POFA is a breakdown product of chemicals called fluorotelomers. They are used in many kinds of food packaging — for french fries, microwaveable popcorn, baked goods, candy, pizza. The popcorn is particularly worrisome as the heat causes the chemical to spread into the popping oil.

There is some evidence that whatever the source, POFA is everywhere in the environment. Moreover, it remains in the environment for a long time. In one study by the 3M Company, of 600 children, 96% had the chemical in their blood. In fact, it is believed 90% of all Americans have POFA in their blood.

The EPA began studying POFA in 1999. It describes POFA as a “suggestive human carcinogen.” An outside scientific panel, however, reviewing the same data, has called it a “likely carcinogen.”

The Enviromental Working Group suggests before the government reports are finished, consumers can lessen their foodborne expose to POFA in several ways: heat greay foods in ceramic or glass , not cardboard containers; cook with Teflon pans at lower temperatures; never heat an empty Teflon pan; and microwave popcorn in a homemade popping bag of brown paper with some oil inside, stapled shut.