OPINION: Teflon terror on our hands?

Plastic Pieces, with Drew Rogers - DEX columnist

REMEMBER when Teflon was all the rage? We were all jumping up and down because our omelettes and sausages wouldn't stick to our frying pans. These special pans were kept in safe places and had strict rules of usage. If you disobeyed those rules and scratched the pans creating that one sticky spot, mum would be furious, that was a hard grudge to shake. Teflon also went into the making of the life changing Gore-Tex fabric. Camping and hiking in the wet all of a sudden became comfortable, rain and snow just bounced of my tents and jackets. All I knew was that Teflon was awesome. Was I wrong? Apparently so...

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In 2005 the American EPA, after its own research, fined the manufacturer of Teflon (Dupont) for knowingly covering up the negative health effects of a certain chemical used in Teflons production. This chemical (Perfluorooctanoic Acid or PFOA) wasn't just linked to but could cause cancer. It was found in blood samples of nearly all Americans tested. PFOA was recognised as a carcinogen and will no longer be used in manufacturing as of 2016. Pheeew, case closed? Not yet. At the beginning of this month there was significant research published regarding the replacement chemicals to the banned PFOA. This research has found that the new ingredients (PFA's) may be just as toxic as the old.

Remember the whole fuss in banning CFC's from aerosols because they depleted the ozone? Well this seems to be the human equivalent, right down to Dupont being the mass producer...hmm. Scientists and professionals are calling for a ban of the chemicals under what they term the Madrid Statement (look it up). The EPA however has stated than anyone using the chemicals must give them 90 days notice before using in manufacturing. I can't help but feel that this means they're on the possibly harmful, but we'll just wait and see, list.

It seems that too often the wool is pulled over our eyes by corporations trying to make profits. What's worse is then these truths somehow get labelled as conspiracy theories. I'm no hater of invention and have used Gore-Tex products and Teflon pans for years. However when we become aware of something that is harmful to the environment and others we have a choice to limit that harm. Let's try and use this awareness to influence our future purchasing and consumer choices. On one purchase this week, look at the life cycle of the product and try to compare your benefit to the environment's.

Drew Rogers is a passionate advocate for the environment and is the founder of Waste Free Futures. You'll find his columns every second Monday in The DEX. 


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