Teflon and Thyroidism

January 21, 2010

Hot on the heels of a previous study from Exeter University in England mining a massive U.S. database of health information for associations between chemicals and disease, comes a new study by the same researchers that exposure to PFOA  – Perlurooctanoic Acid, a precursor chemical to Teflon, is associated with

Clive Cookson, one of the best science journalists writing in English (one of the dwindling number of science journalists writing in English, alas), notes in the Financial Time, that one should not read too much into the findings:

“Independent experts urged people to treat the report with caution. Although the link found by the Exeter researchers seemed significant – people with the highest 25% of PFOA concentrations were more than twice as likely to report current thyroid disease than those with the lowest 50% of PFOA – many “confounding factors” might have caused the association.

Much more research will be needed to show whether or not there is a causal link.”

As STATS noted with the previous Exeter study linking heart disease to BPA, cross-sectional studies — snapshots of the apparant relationship between two factors made at a discrete point in time — are blunt scientific instruments, incapable of determining causality, not least because disease develops over time and levels of the chemical over the same time may vary considerably.

Environmental Health Perspectives rushed the abstract of this paper into print, a move which means omitting full discussion of the methodology and the limitations. Cynics might  interpret that as a marketing strategy to maximize the news effect, while minimizing journalistic scrutiny. Even if that wasn’t the intention, it was certainly the outcome to judge by some of the other media coverage.


Keep Your Eyes on the Slope, and Stop Worrying About “Toxic” Ski Wax

January 17, 2008

Trevor Butterworth

So how risky is snowboarding compared to the wax on your snowboard? This odd consideration comes by way of Boulder, Colorado’s Daily Camera, which asks “What’s in your ski wax?” and then answers “Slippery coating may be toxic.”

The article claims that ski wax poses a threat to health because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared one of its constituent chemicals a possible carcinogen and that the wax may migrate to the snow, which will then melt, leading to contamination of the water supply.

The Environmental Protection Agency says a derivative of some PFCs called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, is a possible carcinogen.

How the contaminants get into our blood — and how big a contribution ski wax may make — is difficult to pin down. Fluorinated chemicals are found in all kinds of household products, from stain-resistant carpets and children’s clothes to Gore-Tex, Teflon and even microwave popcorn bags.

Even if the total contribution of toxins from the ski industry is relatively small, fluorinated ski wax may be of special concern because any wax rubbed off on the snow surface will eventually melt directly into the water supply.

First, the EPA does not say PFOA is a possible carcinogen, Read the rest of this entry »


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