Alternatives sought to meet 2015 deadline.

DuPont Co., the third-biggest U.S. chemical company, plans to halt the use of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, in products such as Teflon by 2015 amid government and consumer concerns that the chemical may harm people.

Alternative chemicals and manufacturing processes will be used to eliminate PFOA, Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont said Monday in a statement. PFOA has been mostly removed from products being introduced this year, the company said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a year ago asked chemical makers to eliminate PFOA from emissions and products by 2015. DuPont at the time agreed to end PFOA emissions while saying there were no viable PFOA substitutes for many products. The EPA is studying whether PFOA harms people and why low levels of the chemical are found in most Americans’ blood.

“We have transformed the way some of our products are made and have achieved greatly reduced PFOA content and emissions while maintaining a high level of performance,” DuPont Chief Executive Officer Charles Holliday Jr. said in the statement. “We are committing to eliminate the need to make, buy or use PFOA by 2015.”

DuPont is among eight companies, including Maplewood-based 3M Co., that agreed in January 2006 to eliminate 95 percent of PFOA emissions by 2010 and all emissions by 2015. The same reductions are being sought for PFOA in finished products. DuPont started making PFOA after its supplier, 3M, phased out production in 2000.

An EPA scientific advisory panel in 2004 said PFOA is a likely human carcinogen, based on animal studies. The agency has said consumers should not be concerned about continuing to use PFOA-related products until they are phased out. DuPont said PFOA does not pose a health risk to the general public. Annual sales of DuPont products with PFOA are about $1 billion.

PFOA is used to make fluoropolymers such as Teflon coatings, rain gear and wiring insulation, and fluorotelomers, such as firefighting foams and grease repellants added to popcorn bags, food wrappers, clothing, leather, upholstery and carpets. Flourotelomers may break down into PFOA, the EPA has said.

DuPont will double research spending on PFOA alternatives to meet its 2015 goal, said David Boothe, global business manager of fluoroproducts. He declined to say how much will be spent.

While DuPont deserves praise for its rapid progress in eliminating the chemical’s use, the company needs to research whether fluorotelomers break down into PFOA with age, said Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based watchdog.

“They need to scrutinize the products they continue to sell to determine if they have actually solved the problem,” Houlihan said in a telephone interview. “We may still have a major PFOA source” that can accumulate in people and wildlife, she said.

DuPont is studying the issue, spokesman Dan Turner said.

“The data we have to date does not support the degradation of fluorotelomer products to PFOA,” Turner said.

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