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PFOA is Bad

What do you rarely get when you put 200 scientists from 40 countries in a room to discuss something? A concensus! But when it comes to the chemicals that make things stain-resistant and nonstick these scientists agreed that these chemicals are bad for your health.

Called the Madrid Statement and released in May 2015, this agreement calls on scientists, governments, and chemical and product manufacturers to protect us from poly- and perfluoroalkyl chemical substances (PFSs) exposure.


Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are a class of chemicals that are used to make things stain and stick resistant. PFCs are molecules made up of carbon chains to which fluorine atoms are bound. Fluorine adds the slippery quality.

PFCs are found in every stain-resistant and nonstick product. The dangers of using non-stick cookware are well known. However, you may not be aware that you're exposed to this dangerous toxin when you wear stain-resistant, water-repellent and wrinkle-free clothing.

And guess what makes your no iron sheets wrinkle-free. Sleeping on them is enough to give you nightmares.

Stain-resistant carpeting and furniture can contaminate your indoor air with PFCs just like cooking with nonstick pans. Food packaging (microwave popcorn, pizza boxes, fast food containers) is also a source of exposure.

PFCs are also used as surfactants (substance that reduces the surface tension of liquids so that the liquid spreads out, rather than collecting in droplets) in shampoo, dental floss and denture cleaners. Plus, they are used in making some types of plastic.

The two most common forms of PFC’s are:

  • PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), used for stain resistance in products like Scotchgard. It has been replaced, but there is no information available on the new Scotchguard formula.
  • PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) is used to make products nonstick, like Teflon (PFTE). These toxins leach from pots and pans and clothing and are known to cause serious health issues.

PFOA is found the blood of 95% of Americans. Manufactures agreed to eliminate it in consumer products by 2015. However, because it is a persistent organic pollutant that takes many years to break down, it will continually circulate through our bodies, the environment and the food chain.

It has been replaced by PFBS, a sister to PFOA, which probably breaks down into PFOA. In other words, the newer short-chain versions of PFCs that are replacing the older long-chained ones, are also hazardous to your health.

How You're Exposed

You are exposed to PFCs by:

  • Eating food contaminated from packaging and cooking in non-stick cookware
  • Breathing in fumes when using nonstick cooking and bakeware
  • Eating fast food and microwave popcorn
  • Drinking water contaminated with PFCs
  • Wearing and sleeping on stain-resistant and wrinkle-free clothing and bedding.
  • Sitting on stain-resistant furniture and carpets
  • Eating high fat foods (because it's stored in fat and moves up the food chain)
  • Using cosmetics and personal care products that contain PFCs

Health Effects From Exposure


Liver and Kidney Damage 

Reproductive Problems

Birth Defects 

 High cholesterol


Immune System Damage


Reducing Your Exposure to PFCs

To Avoid PFCs in Your Food and Water:

Reduce your consumption of: 
                                        High fat foods
                                        Microwave popcorn
                                        Fast food

Do Not Use:
                                        Nonstick pots, pans bakeware and utensils
                                        Small Appliances that are nonstick   
                                        Personal care products (dental floss, cosmetics, nail polish,                                         face cream) containing ingredients that include the words                                           ”fluoro” or ”perfluoro.”

Filter your drinking water                                 

Avoid clothing, carpets and other textiles that are:

  • Stain-resistant
  • Wrinkle free or easy care
  • Synthetics that are “breathable
  • Most waterproof clothing
  • Stain resistant carpets and upholstery

Protective Sprays

Avoid using spray fabric treatments (basically PFCs in a can) that make your upholstery, carpets, clothes and shoes stain-resistant and waterproof. You'll not only breathe in the toxins but after application you can absorb PFCs through your skin.

Need some convincing? Here's the health information from the Material Data Safety Sheet for Scotchgard™ Fabric Protector.

Immediate health, physical, and environmental hazards: Aerosol container contains flammable gas under pressure. Closed containers exposed to heat from fire may build pressure and explode. Extremely flammable liquid and vapor. Vapors may travel long distances along the ground or floor to an ignition source and flash back. May cause target organ effects.

Central Nervous System (CNS) Depression: Signs/symptoms may include headache, dizziness, drowsiness, lack of coordination, nausea, slowed reaction time, slurred speech, giddiness, and unconsciousness.

Non Toxic Approach to Stains

Stains happen. If you're going to avoid PFCs you'll need a non toxic way to deal with them. But don't blow your efforts to reduce your toxin exposure by using store bought stain removers. They are notoriously toxic.

There are only two off-the-shelf options that are rated with an A by EWG.

1. Martha Stewart Clean Carpet Stain Remover

2. Earth Friendly Stain and Odor Remover

You can also make your own using pantry ingredients. The book Grandma's Natural Cleaning and Stain Removal Secrets is a good resource. A free resource on stain removal can be found here. Some of the suggestions on this website are not non toxic though.

Products that are nonstick and stain-resistant are so convenient. You can cook without the messy cleanup or easily blot up spilled wine on your carpet. But there are 200 scientists from 40 countries who will tell you that this convenience comes at a dangerous cost to your health. Is it worth the risk?

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