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Removing Chemical Used to Make Teflon-like Coatings Has Led to Fewer Low Birth Weights and Less Brain Damage

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NEW YORK, Nov. 27, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Government and industry efforts since 2003 to phase out chemicals used to make non-stick coatings, such as Teflon, have prevented more than 118,000 low-weight births and related brain damage in the United States.

This is the main finding of a new report — based on analysis of new mothers’ blood samples gathered for a national health study — published Nov. 23 in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health.

Scientists behind the research, conducted at NYU School of Medicine, say that studies have long linked the chemicals — famous for keeping food from sticking to pans — with high blood pressure, birth defects, and lower-than-normal birth weights. These damaging health effects were major factors behind a 2006 agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and American manufacturers to curtail and eventually eliminate the harmful chemicals’ production in 2014.

The study authors estimate that the drop in chemically linked low-birth weight babies saved the nation at least $13.7 billion by reducing infant hospital stays and the number of children in need of long-term care after cognitive damage; and by improving the prospects of children going on to achieve higher education levels and get better-paying jobs.

“The evidence is overwhelming that the EPA-industry accord to phase out chemicals once used in nonstick coatings has been a major success in protecting children’s health,” says study lead investigator and health epidemiologist Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, an associate professor at NYU Langone Health. “This policy designed to lessen human exposure has spared thousands of newborns from damage to their health and saved U.S. taxpayers over a billion dollars in unnecessary health care costs.”

Before 2006, the principal danger to fetuses and pregnant women, researchers say, came from chemicals used in the manufacture of the coating called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. Not occurring naturally in the environment, PFOA chemicals accumulate in the blood of marine mammals and in most humans exposed to them. Research over decades has linked even a nanogram (one-billionth of gram) increase in PFOA per milliliter of blood to an 18.9 gram reduction in birth weight.

A healthy newborn typically weighs about 8 pounds (3,600 grams), experts say, and a low birth weight —  associated with potential brain damage — is considered anything less than 5.5 pounds (2,500 grams).

Trasande cautions that while the EPA-industry accord has greatly diminished blood PFOA

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