PFOA Chemicals and Teflon

Teflon is a brand name of a chemical coating, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). PFOA chemicals are used in the process of making Teflon. It was first made in the 1930s to create a non-reactive, nonstick surface. It’s known for its use in cookware, although it can also be used to coat other materials like wires, fabrics, or makeup (to make them waterproof).

Is PFOA in Teflon?

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8, is another man-made chemical and is used in the process of making Teflon and similar chemicals. PFOA chemicals have the potential to be a health concern because they can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time. Studies have found that PFOA is present worldwide at very low levels in just about everyone’s blood.

PFOA chemicals are not only used in the manufacturing of Teflon, but also stain-resistant carpet, water repellent clothing, paper and cardboard packaging, ski wax, and firefighting foam.

Do Teflon and PFOA Cause Cancer?

Higher levels have been found in community residents where local water supplies have been contaminated by PFOA. People exposed to PFOA in the workplace can have levels many times higher. Subsequent studies of nearly 70,000 people near a Teflon plant in West Virginia linked PFOA in tap water to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and other health problems.


Teflon itself is not suspected of causing cancer.


Many studies in recent years have looked at the possibility of PFOA chemicals causing cancer. Researchers use 2 main types of studies to try to figure out if such a substance might cause cancer:

  • Studies in the lab – In studies done in the lab, animals are exposed to a substance (often in very large doses) to see if it causes tumors or other health problems. Researchers might also expose human cells in a lab dish to the substance to see if it causes the types of changes that are seen in cancer cells. Studies in lab animals have found exposure to PFOA increases the risk of certain tumors of the liver, testicles, mammary glands (breasts), and pancreas in these animals. In general, well-conducted studies in animals do a good job of predicting which exposures cause cancer in people. But it isn’t clear if the way this chemical affects cancer risk in animals would be the same in humans.
  • Studies in Humans – Some types of studies look at cancer rates in different groups of people. These studies might compare the cancer rate in a group exposed to a substance to the cancer rate in a group not exposed to it or compare it to the cancer rate in the general population. But sometimes it can be hard to know what the results of these types of studies mean, because many other factors might affect the results.
    Studies have looked at people exposed to PFOA from living near or working in chemical plants. Some of these studies have suggested an increased risk of testicular cancer with increased PFOA exposure. Studies have also suggested possible links to kidney cancer and thyroid cancer, but the increases in risk have been small and could have been due to chance. Other studies have suggested possible links to other cancers, including prostate, bladder, and ovarian cancer. But not all studies have found such links, and more research is needed to clarify these findings.

How to Protect Yourself

If you are not sure what is in your drinking water or just don’t want to take any risks of exposure from these chemicals, schedule a FREE in-home water test. Give us a call at 509-381-7818 or schedule your FREE in-home water test here.


American Cancer Society
Environmental Working Group

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