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A fluoropolymer is a synthetic carbon-based plastic, rubber or resin used to manufacture high-performance industrial coatings. Strong, lightweight, nonstick and durable, fluoropolymers are often valued for their resistance to heat, water, salt and chemicals in some of the most extreme environments.
Developed in 1938 by accident, Teflon™ fluoropolymers were first used in 1945 for military purposes. Later, the unique properties of this cost-effective synthetic plastic proved useful in a variety of industries including the automotive, aerospace, and telecommunication industries. In fact, most people have come into contact with a product that was made from a fluoropolymer. Coated wires, semiconductors, and Teflon™ cookware include parts made from fluoropolymers. Some weatherproof clothing uses fluoropolymers for its resistance to moisture. A blend of resins with lubricants, fluoropolymer coatings are key to flame retardant and chemical protective clothing worn by fire fighters, emergency workers and military personnel.
New applications utilizing fluoropolymer coatings continue to enter the marketplace. Fluoropolymers are the basis of a broad range of stain and fabric protectors in the textile industry. Paint manufacturers have developed a water-based fluoropolymer emulsion paint that retains the same durability as solvent-based paints but may reduce interior air pollution by up to 30%.
Fluoropolymer resins are finding increasing use in coating bridges, water towers and coastal storage tanks. Resin coatings have a wide variety of uses in marine environments, from boats and ships to offshore tanks, industrial marine equipment and platforms. The fluoropolymer coating provides a slick surface that repels airborne dirt, pollution, acid rain, mineral and salt corrosion.
Fluoropolymer manufacturers claim that fluoropolymers are safe and that it is the chemical substance perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) used in the production process of liquid coatings that is cause for concern. U.S. and European regulatory agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are studying the health and safety effects of fluoropolymers and PFOA.
DuPont states that the inhalation of fumes from overheated fluoropolymer Teflon™ coated cookware can cause flu-like symptoms. Cookware manufacturers warn not to abrade the coated surfaces and that pets with sensitive respiratory systems not be in or near the kitchen when using cooking and cleaning products.