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Cancer Warnings Should Be Added To PFOA Products In California, Health Agency Says

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California health officials indicate they intend to add perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to a list of restricted chemicals in the state, requiring extensive label warnings to alert consumers about the potential health risks associated with exposure.

PFOA is no longer made in the U.S., and are part of a group of toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, thyroid problems, rampant water contamination, and may even reduce the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. It was used primarily in the creation of nonstick surfaces, but can also be found in certain types of firefighting foam and protective equipment.

On March 19, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) issued a press release announcing an intent to list PFOA on its Proposition 65 list of toxic chemicals. This will require any product sold in the state that contains PFOA to add a label warning to its products about the potential health risks.

The OEHHA indicates in the statement that the decision was based off a 2020 report by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), which determined PFOA increases the risk of liver and pancreatic cancer.

PFOA and other PFAS chemicals were first introduced into the manufacturing industry in the 1940’s, because of their ability to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. The chemical substances are used to manufacture a number of products, however, it is perhaps most known for its use in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) used by military and civilian firefighters.

“PFOA is no longer produced in the US and its production and use worldwide was significantly curtailed with the 2019 ban of the compound under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants,” the press release notes. “However, its persistence in the environment and breakdown of certain other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances result in continued PFOA exposure.”

It is projected to take thousands of years for PFOA and other PFAS to degrade, and past studies have shown their ability to enter and stay in the environment and human body through the air, dust, food, soil, and water. Previous U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies have shown PFAS chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and could likely be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population.

Chemical manufacturers now face a growing number of firefighting foam lawsuits brought by individuals nationwide, including former fire fighters diagnosed with cancer and individuals who lived near military bases or training facilities where chemicals from the toxic foam contaminated drinking water supplies.

OEHHA has announced it is accepting public comments on the listing until May 3, 2021. It is requesting comments be made electronically, if possible. Electronic comments can be submitted via it’s website at https://oehha.ca.gov/comments.

In addition, non-electronic comments can be submitted to Tyler Saechao, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, 1001 I Street, P.O. Box 4010, MS-12B, Sacramento, California 95812-4010.

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