Makers of PFAS 'forever chemicals' covered up the dangers, new report warns trends now
Manufacturers of 'forever chemicals' tried to cover up the dangers they posed for more than 30 years, a new report claims.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, who reviewed dozens of company documents, found executives were first alerted to the health risks in 1961, but scientists said that they failed to raise the alarm until the 1990s.
Internal documents revealed chemical manufacturers DuPont and 3M were facing studies warning the chemicals, dubbed per- and polyFluorinated Substances (PFAS), could cause liver enlargement, poisonings and birth defects in children.
But the executives were alleged to have sat on the evidence and allow the chemicals to continue to be used in pots and pans, carpets, children's toys and even period underwear. They are used in paints and fabrics to make items non-stick or waterproof.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, reviewed dozens of company documents to find that the risks from PFAS were covered up for years before the alarm was raised. They are used on items such as pots and pans, for their antistick properties
There is also evidence of PFAS being present in period underwear, despite studies warning that it raises the risk of infertility
Studies suggest that more than 97 percent of Americans now have PFAS chemicals circulating in their blood.
But US states are still only just waking up to the threat, with Minnesota set to become the first to ban them completely by 2025.
Dr Tracey Woodruff, a gynecologist, and others involved in the study likened the delay to the tobacco industry's response to warnings that smoking can cause cancer.
The companies created the chemicals which were then used by other companies in items such as pans and fabrics to make them non stick and give them a waterproof quality.
But a single scratch can release millions of these toxic forever chemicals that can then be absorbed through the skin into the blood.
They can then enter cells where they damage DNA, raising the risk of cancer, and interfere with vital organs such as the thyroid, affecting metabolism.
In the study, published last night in the Annals of Global Health, researchers combed through documents on PFAS.
These had been obtained from Minnesota-based PFAS inventor 3M and major PFAS manufacturer DuPont, based in Wilmington, Delaware, in a lawsuit by Robert Billot that began in 1998.
He eventually managed to get records from the company spanning 1961 to 2006 which were then donated to the UCSF Chemical Industry Documents Library.
The scientists used these documents to construct a timeline of when manufacturers became aware of the risks posed by PFAS chemicals.
They then conducted further resarch to also construct a timeline of when alerts were raised in the public.
Results showed that warnings about PFAS chemicals and, in particular, the Teflon chemical coating, were first raised in 1961.
The chief of toxicology at DuPont found in experiments that rats exposed to PFAS in low doses had an 'increase in the size of the liver'. They warned that the chemicals should be handled with 'extreme care' and contact with the skin should be 'strictly avoided'.
Concerns were again raised internally in the 1970s, when DuPont-funded Haskell