WILMINGTON, DE: DuPont is stressing that it is "fully committed" to protecting public health amid research suggesting that Teflon, the material in its nonstick cookware, causes cancer and other ailments.
But the company's own market research has also indicated that the "vast majority" of its customers are unaware of Teflon's proposed risks, and, of those who are, most believe that the products are safe, said Clifton Webb, DuPont's director of media relations and business public affairs.
PR activities, therefore, run the fine line between reassuring the public and not raising an alarm. The company is stressing the message that there is "no reason" for customers to stop using Teflon, Webb noted.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is echoing that advisory.
"It's an issue of concern, but there is no reason to panic," said Enesta Jones, an EPA press officer.
A scientific advisory board of the EPA is currently studying why so many people have the chemical PFOA in their blood. PFOA, which is used during the manufacturing process to make Teflon, is known to cause cancer and birth defects in animals.
But both the EPA and DuPont have emphasized that it is unclear whether the chemical poses a similar threat to humans and how it even gets into the bloodstream in the first place.
"Our communications related to PFOA include the full communications mix and are integrated into business actions on a global basis," Webb said in an e-mail. "We are focused on a range of internal and external audiences and use a variety of channels to reach them."
Jones added that many stories in the media have been presented in a way that might cause undue fear.
"This is a very complex and technical issue," she said. "We're spending a lot of time with [reporters] on the phone, educating them."
DuPont is also responding to allegations that it hid Teflon's risks and failed to immediately report the PFOA data to the government.
"We're applying our knowledge globally and sharing what we learn with regulatory officials and industry," Webb said.