30 Jan 2006, 04:41:01 PM

Reporter: Liz Kefford

They're in almost every Australian kitchen and synonymous with modern day living, but fumes from non stick fry pans could be making our population sick, very sick.

Ben Cole says “what they're showing in these lab studies they're showing a lot of damage to the liver, they're showing damage to the immune system as well they're showing potential damage to the unborn foetus as well.”

Teflon frypans could become a thing of the past, after the US environment protection association found perflurinated compounds, or chemicals used in the non-stick coating should be classified 'likely carcinogens"

Its just been announced that the association have convinced Teflon manufacturer du pont to withdraw the chemicals from production...Ben Cole from the national toxics network says laboratory studies show these chemicals are extremely harmful when tested on rats, and humans are also at risk.

Ben Cole says “we've already seen what man made chemicals can damage the human body and the immune systems. They can cause cancer, we've seen what tobacco smoking can do to our bodies so we know man made chemicals are harmful”

Bob Simons says “the longer they stay in the blood in our bodies the more they have to interact with ourselves and different organs” Bob Simons from the national measurement institute says flu like symptoms could be the first danger sign that you're being affected by chemicals coming off an overheated Teflon pan. He says “because these compounds are very persistent it takes a long time for them to break down and the more we're exposed the greater the levels are in our blood”

An American study has shown that an extraordinary 95 percent of the population has perflurinated compounds in their bodies...and Australian study of 400 people has just been completed, and we are just as badly affected.

Ben Cole says “sadly we're on the podium with America and Canada in having the highest levels in the world of these chemicals in the bloodstream"

Tim Cropp is a scientist with the US environmental working group, which has been calling for a consumer warning of all non stick frying pans at the moment if you go to du ponts Teflon website, you'll eventually find warnings of flu like symptoms, buried in the fine print. He says “they haven't put a warning on the pans because that's what people would see if and it would stop people from buying the pans”

Non stick frypans aren't the only household items in the firing line...goretex clothing, microwave popcorn bags pizza box liners, upholstery and carpets also contain these perflurinated compounds.

Ben Cole says ”its very difficult for the consumer to know whether or not these chemicals are in their products so yes labelling is a very important component and responsible labelling is one of the things we're asking the chemical companies to take on board”

Du Ponts Australian research and development manager Leo Hyde says he doesn't believe the non stick coatings actually cause health problems, despite what the laboratory tests reveal.

Leo says “that data has come from rat studies all of the human studies and the human studies do not show that and rat studies are fairly standard studies of chemicals”

Du pont is not the only company in the firing line...another seven companies in the US are also now phasing out the use of these chemicals. Experts are warning us not to throw away out frypans just yet...cancer expert professor Bernard Stewart says we should concentrate on avoiding the very things we know will hurt us. He says “we should be worried about things that are known like cigarette smoke, asbestos, benzine and the like...these things do cause cancer and if they are detected then you have a real worry”