Issue Date: February 12, 2007
DuPont is launching technologies for making fluorinated products that it says remove 97% of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a persistent and bioaccumulating pollutant that is suspected of causing health problems, including cancer.
In January 2006, EPA launched a voluntary program encouraging chemical companies to reduce, by 2010, PFOA from plant emissions and finished products by 95% from 2000 levels. The program then calls for the elimination of the compounds from emissions and products by 2015.
DuPont says PFOA is an unintended by-product of the manufacture of fluorotelomers, a class of fluorinated alcohols. PFOA is also used as a processing aid in the production of fluoropolymers.
DuPont, which signed on to the EPA program, last week launched the LX family of fluorotelomer products for surface protection in coatings, paper packaging, leather, and other markets. The company has spent $20 million on a plant at its First Chemical subsidiary in Mississippi that extracts the PFOA content of the fluorotelomers. The PFOA is then, the company says, "thermochemically destroyed."
For fluoropolymer processing, the company came out with what it calls Echelon technology, which reduces the PFOA content of aqueous fluoropolymer dispersions, also by 97%.
DuPont CEO Charles O. Holliday Jr. promises that the new technologies are only a step toward PFOA elimination. "We are developing potential alternative technologies, and today we are committing to eliminate the need to make, buy, or use PFOA by 2015," he says.
DuPont says it cut manufacturing plant emissions of PFOA by 94% from 2000 levels at the end of last year; it aims to reach a 97% reduction by the end of this year.
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