Scientists: common chemicals in pizza boxes, backpacks may cause cancer

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Friday, May 1, 2015

MADRID, Spain (WLS) -- Hundreds of scientists are campaigning to ban common chemical used in many household products, including pizza boxes, because they may pose a cancer risk.

Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFASs, have been partially banned for years, though other forms of the chemical are currently in use in millions of products worldwide.

Earlier studies have showed that PFASs in Teflon products may have contributed to a higher risk of cancer, leading to the ban. Now scientists say the chemicals' replacements may also be toxic.

Traces of PFASs have been found in a large segment of the population, and are known to linger in the bloodstream for years.

PFASs allow objects to resist moisture and high temperatures, and are used in many household products including pizza boxes, sleeping bags, electronics and backpacks, as well as automotive and aviation equipment.

"Research is needed to understand the potential for adverse health effects from exposure to the short-chain PFASs, especially regarding low-dose endocrine disruption and immunotoxicity," wrote the authors Linda S. Birnbaum, from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program and Philippe Grandjean, from the Harvard School of Public Health, in an article published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"In parallel, research is needed to find safe alternatives for all current uses of PFASs. The question is, should these chemicals continue to be used in consumer products in the meantime, given their persistence in the environment?"

"These conundrums cannot be resolved by science alone but need to be considered in an open discussion informed by the scientific evidence," Birnbaum and Grandjean wrote.

Critics of the study say that the replacement chemicals have been found safe.

"We just believe based on the 10-year history of extensive studies done on the alternatives, that the regulatory agencies have done their job of determining that these things are safe for their intended uses," Thomas H. Samples, a lead risk manager for DuPont, told The New York Times. DuPont is a lead manufacturer of PFASs.

Other experts say that additional research into the chemicals' health effects could take five to 10 years.