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Nonstick but not nontoxic

From Chicago, at the EPA Emerging Pollutants Workshop

A growing number of products designed to shun both water and oil rely on fluorine-based compounds. The nonstick chemicals also serve in stain-resistant coatings and as surfactants in fire-fighting foams, floor polishes, and insecticides. What these fluorine compounds don't do is fully degrade.

In the environment, many break down only to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), a remarkably persistent pollutant that has started showing up in the blood of people and animals. Fetal exposures to this proliferating pollutant can harm newborn mice and rats, a new study shows.

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