The federal government said today that although the science is still coming in, enough health concerns have been raised already to virtually eliminate continued exposure to the key chemical used to make Teflon.
Teflon is a $2 billion-a-year business and one of the country's best-known products. DuPont once called it the housewife's best friend.
Today the federal government said DuPont had voluntarily agreed to practically eliminate by the year 2010 any new emissions of the key Teflon chemical from its factories.
"This is the right thing to do, and we are going to move forward with it," said Susan Hazen, the Environmental Protection Agency's principal deputy assistant administrator for the office of prevention, pesticides and toxic substances.
Scientific studies have found that Teflon's key chemical, linked to cancer and organ damage in laboratory animals, is in the blood of almost all Americans.
"It would be hard to imagine a chemical that is more widespread in our environment," said Kenneth Cook, the president and founder of the watchdog organization Environmental Working Group. "It is found everywhere from babies in the womb to whales in the ocean. And beyond that, it is indestructible in the environment. It lasts forever."
Federal officials say the agreement also applies to a variety of Teflon consumer products -- including carpeting and clothing, food packing, as well as Teflon pots and pans.
"This program calls on virtually eliminating those uses in those products and substituting with other materials that aren't displaying any levels of concern," Hazen said.
DuPont has already paid more than $100 million to settle lawsuits brought by residents who live near a Teflon plant in West Virginia.
Sue Bailey, a former DuPont plant worker, blames the chemical for birth defects suffered by her son, Bucky, 25 years ago. He was born with only one nostril and a deformed right eye.
Today they called the action long overdue.
DuPont says, as it stands now, it cannot make Teflon without this chemical, and it is looking for a substitute. As for all those pots and pans in the homes of Americans, both DuPont and the federal government say there is no need to throw them out.