It’s what allows the skier to slice through snow, and his suit stays dry: chemicals that repel water and oil, coating many microwave popcorn bags, fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, the carpet your babies crawl on. Unseen chemicals so widely used for the past 50 years—you touch them repeatedly every day.
“It’s very practical, but if you know the other side, you might question it.”
They’re called “highly fluorinated chemicals,” says UC Berkeley chemist Arlene Blum, who is one of the skeptics. Extremely effective as a nonstick and waterproof barrier, but toxic enough that 200 scientists from around the globe banded together in this declaration, saying human studies showed a connection to cancer, lower birth weight, and delayed puberty. In the environment, fluorinated chemicals don’t easily biodegrade and travel across the oceans, found even in the bodies of polar bears.Erin Burnett
- Watch full video with Erin Burnett on CNN: Where are dangerous toxins lurking in your home?