There are more PR troubles for Teflon, the non-stick coating that makes post-brunch cleanup a breeze, but has been linked to a wide range of serious health problems.
One of the main chemicals used to make Teflon - perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA - has been linked to increased body fat and faster weight gain in children whose mothers were exposed to high levels during pregnancy, according to new research from Brown University.
The pregnant women lived in Cincinnati, downstream from the DuPont plant that has been manufacturing PFOA since the 1950s.
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As part of a class-action lawsuit settlement brought by Ohio River valley residents, Dupont has been filtering the water since 2002. Since then, PFOA levels in the river have dropped below the federal government's safety recommendations, but the government has never set an enforceable standard for the toxic chemical. And new research suggests that PFA may have serious consequences for human health at levels well below the recommendation, reports the Environmental Working Group.
Previous research has linked PFOA exposure to certain cancers, including bladder and kidney cancer.
The children in the new study were followed for six years, between ages two and eight. Children of mothers whose exposure was highest weighed less at two than their less-exposed counterparts, but weighed almost 2.5 more pounds at age eight.
While that might not seem like much, it's enough to cause concern, say experts.
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"There isn't a threshold at which we say you shouldn't add more fat mass - any more fat mass is bad fat mass," lead researcher Joseph Braun said in a release.
As obesity rates have skyrocketed in recent decades, experts have been on the hunt for explanations that go beyond energy balance - or the calories in, calories out equation - and they're pointing a finger at obesogens.
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Obesogens are a set of industrial chemicals that derail normal metabolic function and make exposed people more vulnerable to weight gain. PFOA is a suspected obesogen.
Obesogens are found just about everywhere: the flame retardants in mattresses, pillows, computers, wall insulation and more are obesogens, as are chemicals in popcorn bags, according to a report in U.S. News and World Report. Obesogens stick to dust particles that hang in the air, which we then breathe.
And while the consequences of exposure may be seen more readily in areas like the Ohio River valley, where exposure is higher, the problem of environmental chemicals that alter metabolism has many tentacles, and affects everyone.
"ven those at the lower end of the BMI [body mass index] curve are gaining weight," writes professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, Robert H. Lustig. "Whatever is happening is happening to everyone, suggesting an environmental trigger."