Teflon, the non-stick coating on pots and pans and stain protector on carpets and clothes, can give you the “Teflon flu.” In large amounts, it can also cause birth defects. Sue Bailey, who worked at a plant that made chemicals for Teflon when she was pregnant, gave birth to a severely deformed baby. One of these chemicals, known as C-8, has been linked to cancer and organ damage in animals. Is the amount of Teflon in our daily lives dangerous as well?

Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz and Maddy Sauer report for abcnews.com that C-8 has been found in the blood of almost every American, and some of the highest levels have been found in children. “In retrospect, this may seem like one of the biggest, if not the biggest, mistakes the chemical industry has ever made,” says environmentalist Jane Houlihan. “And how could [these chemicals] not be in our blood? They’re in such a huge range of consumer products. We’re talking about Teflon, Stainmaster, Gore-tex, Silverstone. So if you buy clothing that’s coated with Teflon or something else that protects it from dirt and stains, those chemicals can absorb directly through the skin.”

Dupont vice president Uma Chowdhry says, “We are confident when we say that the facts, the scientific facts, demonstrate that the material is perfectly safe to use. We do not believe there are any adverse health effects. There are lots of chemicals that are present in our blood.”

There’s also “Teflon flu,” which you can get if you overheat your Teflon pans. “It feels like the flu,” says Houlihan, “headaches, chills, backache, temperature between 100 and 104 degrees. At 554 degrees Fahrenheit, studies show ultrafine particles start coming off the pan. These are tiny little particles that can embed deeply into the lungs. At 680, toxic gases can begin to come off of heated Teflon.” Chowdhry says, “You get some fumes, yes, and you get a flu-like symptom, which is reversible.” She says “Teflon flu” only lasts a couple of days.

But Houlihan says, “It’s a potential threat, and the EPA’s moving fast in studying this. Human blood levels are too close to the levels that harm lab animals. That’s why they’re moving so fast.”

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