Replacement for Teflon Chemical C-8 is Now Under Scrutiny – Is It Any Better?

Last month, corporate poisoners DuPont and Chemours announced their agreement to settle approximately 3,500 lawsuits filed by Ohio River Valley residents over injuries and deaths due to C-8, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA for short).

While use of PFOA has been discontinued since 2009 (and as per the terms of the settlement, DuPont and Chemours deny any wrongdoing), there has been a “replacement chemical” that was introduced in 2012. This is making scientists and environmental activists nervous, as they have spent nearly twenty years fighting to end the use of C-8 – and the new chemical does not appear to be much better.

Known as “GenX,” the new chemical has been used and touted as a more “environmentally friendly” substitute for C-8, and has been used in the manufacture of non-stick pans for the past five years. Chemours claims that it has little or no “extractable water-soluble residuals” in finished products, and degrades in the environment quickly.

Is it true? Or is Chemours’ new motto, “Let’s Change the Formula” nothing more than yet one more example of hollow hucksterism and greenwashing?

Late last year, the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment released a 96-page long report on a study of GenX. The study’s conclusion: “Based on the limited information available,” at least one of the ingredients is “probably less harmful than PFOA.”

That is not particularly reassuring to one environmentalist, particularly in light of the fact that DuPont has not provided much in the way of information on GenX. Alan Ducatman, a physician and professor of occupational and environmental science at West Virginia University, says, “In terms of what I have read or recall, DuPont has provided a small amount of data that appears worrisome.” In fact, according to Ducatman, GenX causes the same health problems as C-8. “This reminds me a lot of a path we have recently traveled. That journey is not ending well,” he told The Intercept.

In fact, DuPont has already submitted studies on laboratory rats exposed to GenX, in which these animals developed cancer of the liver, pancreas and testicles as well as kidney and liver disease. One DuPont researcher stated, “These tumor findings are not considered relevant for human risk assessment.”

Ducatman acknowledges that GenX may be “not as bad” as C8 – but added, “Do I think it’s OK? No.”

Jacob de Boer of the University of Amsterdam was one of the first scientists to urge further study of GenX. He points out that GenX leaves the body faster than C8 – but that is about it. “Still, there can be effects,” he pointed out.

It appears that DuPont and Chemours are unrepentant recidivists, having learned nothing from their defeat in a nearly two-decade long legal battle. Sadly, it is unwitting consumers who fall for the line “Lets Change The Formula” who will pay the price.