If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Fluorotelomers to the Test

Unable to strike deal with industry, EPA to study degradation of chemicals

by Cheryl Hogue
July 5, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 27

EPA will conduct tests to determine how fluorinated compounds used as coatings break down to form perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This compound, increasingly found in people and wildlife, worries regulators because it causes developmental problems in laboratory rats.

Though PFOA is used in making DuPont’s Teflon, the accumulation of the chemical in the environment is thought to stem mainly from the degradation of telomers (C&EN, June 14, page 44). These short-chain fluorinated alcohols built up from tetrafluoroethylene are used as coatings on carpets, textiles, and paper.

For more than a year, EPA has negotiated with telomer makers Asahi Glass, Clariant, Daikin America, and DuPont to perform degradation studies on 13 of their products. But the companies and EPA haven’t been able to agree on the number of tests or which chemicals should be studied.
“Industry continues to drag its feet on key studies that will tell EPA what products expose people to the greatest amount of PFOA,” says Timothy J. Kropp, senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group.

In late June, agency officials announced that EPA itself would perform the degradation studies, which are expected to take a year to complete. The agency hopes to determine whether PFOA comes from the breakdown of telomers’ carbon chains or from impurities in telomer products.

EPA is continuing negotiations with telomer companies, says a staff member in EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxics. The agency ideally wants industry to provide a replicate set of the degradation data, she adds.

Meanwhile, EPA is completing its risk assessment of PFOA. This document, which will guide the agency in any regulation of the chemical, will undergo peer review by EPA’s Science Advisory Board later this year.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.