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Are PFOA, PFOS, PFAS, PTFE chemicals safe to use?

I’m after some clarification on these chemicals, are they safe to use? Are some banned elsewhere and why not banned here? I have a gas cooktop, should I immediately be throwing out my old cheaper PFOA containing non-stick fry pans?

PFOA is widely used in a variety of products including carpet and fabric treatment and sealants. Recently we have heard about its use in fire-fighting foam in this country. As well as being directly applied to products (mainly to use as a surfactant) it can be emitted from PTFE coatings of pans. The amount of PFOA detected there is quite small. The use of PFOA in PTFE pans is reducing and today many non-stick pans have no PTFE or PFOA.

PFOA is very persistent lasting for decades in the environment so it has become fairly ubiquitous. People (who may or may not use PTFE pans) have it in their blood all over the world. You could absorb small amounts of it from pans, carpets, surface sealed containers and many other sources. Whether the amount you could get from an old pan is dangerous I cannot say. This would take much research and I am not sure you would get a clear answer.

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Welcome to the forum Cinphil1

I will answer the other two chemicals you asked about that @syncretic did not cover.

PFOS & PFAS were used in fire retardants, but use was totally stopped years ago. These chemicals were used at larger civilian airports and Department of Defence airports around Australian to fight aircraft fires (inluding regular emergency drills & skills training).

You may have heard about the PFAS class actions over groundwater contaminated by toxic firefighting foam settled by Federal Government. This was with some of the DoD sites, but there is continued action on civilian airports and surrounds which have also been contaminated.

The problem is that there is a discrepency between what is considered safe in Australia (much higher quantities) than overseas. There is no internationally agreed ‘safe level’ for humans for PFOS & PFAS.

Unless you are near a large civilian airport, or near a DoD airport, you are unlikely to ever be exposed to unsafe levels of PFOS or PFAS.

For civilian airports, Air Services Australia is keeping information very close to its chest and as the DoD did saying there is no issue, so you are unlikely to find anything online. If you do live near one of these airports, make enquiries with the local community representative groups who should be able to advise you if it is an issue there.

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It’s worth qualifying. Some business operations also maintained stocks of fire fighting foam materials as part of their first response strategies. To meet needs these businesses also carried out live training exercises. There is the possibility there are other smaller sites that have been exposed. Whether in practice all such sites have been identified and placed on a register?

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