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PFOA — toxicity, side effects, diseases and environmental impacts

Saturday, November 18, 2017 by

PFOA is the abbreviated term for perfluorooctanoic acid, which is also referred to as C8. It is a synthetic chemical compound that is used together with PTFE, which is short for polytetrafluoroethylene, to produce certain fluoropolymer- and telomer-based consumer products, such as nonstick pan coatings like Teflon. It is primarily used to make products with water and oil-resistant properties. The chemical can be physically described as a white to off-white powder. PFOA has the molecular formula of C8HF15O2.

List of known side effects

According to the American Cancer Society, PFOA can potentially be harmful to human health and the environment. The reason for this is because it can remain in the environment and in the human body for prolonged periods of time. Past studies have discovered that the chemical is present globally in almost everyone’s blood, although the levels may be very low. Meanwhile, higher levels have been found in people whose local water supplies have been contaminated by the chemical. Furthermore, it can be found in even higher levels in people who are exposed to PFOA in the workplace.

The chemical compound can be absorbed into the body through inhalation, skin contact, eye contact, and ingestion. PFOA, when inhaled, can cause cough and sore throat. When it comes in contact with the skin, it can cause redness and pain. Similarly, when it comes in contact with the eyes, it can cause redness and pain. The chemical, when ingested, can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Some studies in humans that looked at people exposed to PFOA from living near or working in chemical plants suggested that there was an increased risk of testicular cancer with increased exposure to the chemical. Other studies have also shown that the chemical is potentially associated to kidney cancer and thyroid cancer, although the increases in risk have been small. In addition, other studies have found possible links to other types of cancer, such as prostate, bladder, and ovarian cancer.

Body systems affected by PFOA

PFOA may adversely affect several body systems. These include cardiovascular, endocrine, digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems. The chemical has been linked to various health conditions in humans, such as diagnosed high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Items that can contain PFOA

PFOA is a man-made chemical compound that has a lot of manufacturing and industrial uses. PFOA can be found in a variety of products, such as stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, nonstick cookware, water-resistant clothing, paper plates, paper and cardboard packaging, ski wax, and fire-fighting foams.

In addition, the chemical can be present in other products such as food wraps, sprays for leather, shoes, paints, cleaning products, shampoo, and floor wax.

How to avoid PFOA

There are a few ways to avoid PFOA. One of these ways is to avoid using non-stick cooking pots and pans. Instead, cook with stainless steel, glass, ceramic, or cast iron cookwares. Apart from this, lessen PFOA exposure by refraining from using products coated with non-stick chemicals, such as some types of dental floss, microwave popcorn bags, windshield cleaning solution, and pizza boxes. In addition, be aware of products that may seem safe but contain non-stick inserts, such as rice cookers.

Where to learn more


PFOA, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid or C8, is a man-made chemical used together with PTFE to make products based on fluoropolymer and telomer. It makes products water- or oil-resistant.

PFOA exposure can cause cough, sore throat, redness and pain in the eyes or skin, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

PFOA may increase the risk of testicular cancer.

PFOA has been linked to different types of cancers, including kidney, thyroid, prostate, and ovarian cancers.

PFOA may adversely affect the cardiovascular, endocrine, digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems.

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