A chemical used in the manufacture of some non-stick coatings, and which is suspected of posing a range of health risks, is now being linked with the development of arthritis.
A major study by a team at West Virginia University in the US looked at data on almost 50,000 people living in areas of Ohio and West Virginia where a DuPont plant manufacturing Teflon had contaminated water supplies with PFOA over a decade earlier.
PFOA is known as a persistent organic pollutant and remains in the environment and in the human body for years.
The researchers found that people with the highest levels of PFOA in their blood were up to 40% more likely to develop arthritis than people with lower levels.
The results of another non-stick chemical, PFOS, being released into the environment by the DuPont factory were also studied by the university team, who were surprised to find that it had the reverse effect.
People with the highest levels of PFOS in their blood were 25% less likely to have arthritis than people with the lowest levels – possibly because PFOS is able to reduce inflammation.
PFOA is already under scrutiny as a possible cause of thyroid disease and cancer, and is also suspected of raising cholesterol. DuPont settled out of court after 50,000 residents brought a class action lawsuit over its plant’s chemical release, claiming that it had caused birth defects.
The use of PFOA to make non-stick products is to be phased out by 2015, and DuPont is now using a new generation of coatings that are free of the chemical.
Experts warn that this latest study does not prove that PFOA can cause arthritis or that PFOS can prevent it.