Several environmental groups and the United Steelworkers union have petitioned the state of California to classify perfluorooctanoic acid as a cancer-causing substance.
The request falls under California's Proposition 65, which requires companies to inform consumers about potentially dangerous toxins.
Adding PFOA to the state's list could mean that products containing Teflon fluoropolymers would have to carry warning labels. That, at least, would be the aim of the coalition, which filed the petition Feb. 22. DuPont Co., the Wilmington, Del., company that makes PFOA, said consumers who use products coated with Teflon, such as cookware and microwave popcorn bags, face no risk from exposure to trace amounts of PFOA.
In addition to the union, which represents 1,800 DuPont workers, other members of the coalition are the Sierra Club, the Environmental Working Group, the Environmental Law Foundation, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Environment California.
Leo Gerard, president of the Steelworkers, said in a conference call that the union has been testing some of its members' blood for PFOA exposure and has found some elevated levels. The union will continue to test workers and will contact DuPont in the next seven to 10 days to discuss the results. Gerard said the union is considering a class-action lawsuit against the company.
``We're not looking to have a fight with DuPont. At the same time, we're not going to allow DuPont to expose the public, or our members, to this carcinogen,'' he said.
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board recommended that PFOA be labeled a ``likely carcinogen.'' Currently, EPA considers PFOA a ``suggested carcinogen.''
In January, the EPA asked DuPont and other chemical companies to voluntarily reduce PFOA levels in products by 95 percent no later than 2010 and to eliminate PFOA from emissions and products by 2015.