Processing Magazine

Common chemical linked to heart disease, researchers find

September 6, 2012

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a common industrial chemical used in the manufacture of many household products, may be associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease, according to a study by researchers at the West Virginia University School of Public Health.

PFOA, also known as C8, is a manmade, perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant. One of its main industrial applications is as a surfactant in the emulsion polymerization of fluoropolymers. It has been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the U.S. population.

WVU researchers examined 1,216 subjects from the 1999-2003 National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, a major program of the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The team found that increased PFOA levels were positively associated with cardiovascular disease and peripheral artery disease, independent of traditional risk factors, such as age, sex and race/ethnicity.

“These two factors – increased PFOA levels and cardiovascular disease – are co-existing together for some reason,” said Dr. Anoop Shankar, the lead author of the study. “To determine the cause and effect, we would have to do follow-up studies over time, which we are, in fact, doing. At this point, we cannot say that one caused the other.”

In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency worked with eight major companies in the industry to launch the 2010/15 PFOA Stewardship Program, in which companies committed to reduce global facility emissions and product content of PFOA and related chemicals by 95% by 2010, and to work toward eliminating emissions and product content by 2015.

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