A chemical used to make non-stick coatings for saucepans and as a stain and water repellent for carpets and fabrics has been linked with thyroid problems in adults.
Scientists who tested the blood of 4,000 US adults between 1996 and 2006 for the presence of the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) found the 25 per cent with the highest levels had twice the incidence of thyroid problems.
PFOA has been produced for 50 years and is used in a wide variety of materials. It is thought to enter the body in the diet or as dust breathed in through the lungs.
Animal studies have shown that the chemical can affect thyroid function, which is essential for maintaining heart rate, regulating body temperature and supporting other bodily functions. Researchers from the Unversity of Exeter, who conducted the study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, said they had demonstrated an association but had not proved causality. “Our results highlight the need for further research,” they said.
Reaction from other experts was sceptical. Ieuan Hughes, professor of paediatrics at the University of Cambridge and chair of the Committee on the Toxicity of Chemicals in the Environment, said the evidence for the link was “tenuous.”