"Stain-resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal" is how journalist Callie Lyons refers to a chemical called C8 found in the bodies of nearly all humans and animals on the planet. Exposure is linked to a wide range of health problems including cancer, liver malfunction, hypothyroidism, obesity, ulcerative colitis, and decreased immune response to vaccines in children.
More than 200 scientists from 38 countries have reached consensus: the entire class of highly fluorinated chemicals such as C8 (also known as PFCs or PFASs) is extremely persistent, potentially toxic, and should be replaced with safer alternatives. The Madrid Statement documenting this scientific consensus was published in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Highly fluorinated chemicals can make consumer products stain-resistant, nonstick, or waterproof. They are used for instance in outdoor and fashion clothing, carpets, furniture, cookware, food contact paper, and some cosmetics.
"Must our population be the guinea pigs to determine if similar chemicals are as harmful as C8?" asked Arlene Blum, PhD, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute and first author of the Madrid Statement. "Before adding any fluorinated chemicals to consumer products we should ask whether we really need them. Or can the same function be achieved with a safer solution?"
Highly fluorinated chemicals can persist for thousands of years in the environment, which means that many future generations will continue to be exposed via contaminated water, air, and food. These chemicals are now found deep in the ocean, on mountains tops, and in nearly all living creatures.
"Every second, highly fluorinated chemicals are leaching out of the clothing, carpets, and food packaging we use everyday," said Arturo Garcia-Costas of The New York Community Trust, a major funder for the Green Science Policy Institute's work on reducing the use of classes of harmful chemicals. "Once these extremely persistent toxic chemicals make their way out of these products and into our bodies and the environment, there is no going back. Classes of chemicals like this should be proven safe before they're used in consumer products."