Non-stick chemicals may contribute to thyroid cancer, hypothyroidism, experts warn

New research has determined that chemical used to make non-stick pans and cooking appliances may increase the risk of hypothyroidism and certain thyroid cancers, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The chemical group, called perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), essentially consists of long carbon chains which would typically be dotted with hydrogen atoms, but which are coated with fluorine atoms instead.

A coating of PFCs can make certain materials stain- or stick-resistant. The New York Times has attributed this effect to the strong bond between the molecules' fluorine and carbon atoms, which makes them reluctant to interact with other molecules.

PFCs may be found on a number of common products, including non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and rugs, breathable fabric and certain food packages, according to the Seattle-based news source.

It added that a recent study associated high blood levels of PFCs with an increased incidence of certain thyroid conditions.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, determined that individuals with high levels of two forms of PFC - called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate - were more likely to currently have a thyroid disease.

In particular, women who had more than 5.7 nanograms of PFOA in each milliliter of blood (ng/mL) were more than twice as likely to have hypothyroidism or thyroid cancer than those with levels lower than 4 ng/mL.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone. Without this important signalling molecule, an individual may become fatigued, depressed, hoarse, constipated, week or achy, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Among pregnant women, hypothyroidism can cause fetal brain damage. The Environmental Working Group reports that the condition, which may be caused by PFOA, is present in nearly 5 percent of Americans.

Thyroid cancer is similarly common, affecting approximately one in 111 people in the U.S. over their lifetimes, according to the National Cancer Institute.

In response to the latest study of PFCs, the Post-Intelligencer recommended consuming unpackaged food and avoiding pans made with polytetrafluoroethylene, a common non-stick material.