Is it terminal for Teflon?
This week, we have a new departure for upd8 - an activity designed as a preliminary activity for coursework such as the Twenty First Century Science Case Study.
According to a recent scientific report, the chemical PFOA (perflurooctanoic acid), which is used in Teflon manufacture, could increase the risk of allergies. In this activity students examine some of the evidence surrounding PFOA and consider a range of viewpoints. You can run the activity as a ‘standalone’ or as an introduction
to researching the issue in more depth and writing a case study or report for coursework.
14 – 16 How science works:
Practical and enquiry skills
2d evaluate [methods of collection of] data and consider their validity and
reliability as evidence
14 – 16 Chemical and material behaviour
6c new materials are made from natural resources by chemical reactions
14 – 16 GCSE specifications
AQA Core Science
Unit C1b Oils, Earth and Atmosphere: 12.4 How are polymers and ethanol made from oil?
; To evaluate the social, economic and environmental impact of the uses,
disposal and recycling of plastics
; Polymers have many useful applications and how new uses are being
developed, for example coatings for fabrics
Edexcel Core Science
Topic 8 Designer Products
C1b 8.3 Explore how scientists sometimes create new materials with novel properties like Teflon
Edexcel Additional Science
Topic 5 Synthesis
C2 5.14 Recall that polymers are large molecules which can be formed by the combination of many smaller molecules
Gateway Core Science
Module C1 Carbon Chemistry
C1e: Making polymers
; Molecules in Plastics are polymers
; Describe the construction of Gore-Tex type materials
; Explain some of the environmental uses related to polymers C1f: Designer Polymers
; Uses of polymers (plastics) – used in packaging and clothing
; Advantages of waterproof clothing
; Ways that polymers are disposed of
Twenty First Century Core Science
Module C2 Material Choices
Ideas about Science
IaS 1b Data and its limitations
IaS 2.2 Correlation and cause
IaS 6.1-6.4, 6.7 Making decisions about Science and Technology
C2.1.2 Relate properties to the uses of materials such as plastics
Twenty First Century Core Science Case Study
This activity can be used as a starter before students research the issue in greater depth. Students would then develop their case study.
; understand about the scientific controversy surrounding the chemical PFOA
; critically evaluate evidence gathered from a wide variety of sources before
presenting their own views about the issue
; be able to critically discuss and present their ideas about a scientific
Running the activity
Display page 1 then quickly introduce the scientific controversy surrounding PFOA and Teflon. Explain that PFOA is used to manufacture non-stick plastics like Teflon and that PFOA can also detected in the environment. You may wish to display items which contain Teflon – or even fry up bacon and eggs in a non-stick frying pan and ask them what the dangers are… (CARE – risk assessment required)!
Get students into groups and display page 2. Ask students to select the opinion they
most agree with now, before seeing more evidence. Go through the card sort activity instructions.
Give each group a copy of page 3 and a set of cards made from pages 4 and 5. Get
students to read each evidence card carefully before discussing it and deciding which pile to place it in. You may wish to further consolidate understanding by asking questions e.g. What is the controversy about? Where is PFOA used? Where is PFOA found? What is the link between PFOA and Teflon? Which piece of evidence would you trust the most? The least? Which pieces of evidence are likely to be more reliable, more accurate, have more bias? etc.
Finally, give students a copy of page 6 which allows them to state the character from
page 2 that they most agree with, along with one piece of evidence to support the point of view, as well as the character they most disagree with.
You could ask some students to feedback their answers to the class or even get students with opposing views together in order to argue their point of view. You may also wish students to consider whether their final viewpoint has changed after completing the activity.
Differentiation – select only a few evidence cards for students to sort.
A recent Daily Mail newspaper article asking whether Teflon non-stick coatings could raise the risk of allergies.
A recent New Scientist article about the possible links between PFOA and allergies http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/08/08/wteflon08.xml
A Daily telegraph article about Teflon being linked to a range of serious health effects
Teflon is at the centre of a slippery controversy about cancer and birth defects.
The cancer active website offering evidence based information about a wide range of health issues including PFOA and Teflon
PFOA and Health information page from a global chemicals company who manufactures Teflon
Science upd8 is a joint initiative from ASE and the Centre for Science Education, Sheffield Hallam University. We are grateful for support from the Department for Education and Skills in developing this programme.
Copyright rests jointly with the Association for Science Education (ASE) and the Centre for Science Education, Sheffield Hallam University (CSE). Teachers and others who have signed up may download and use UPD8 materials freely within their school, but other usage, or any other organization wishing to use the materials, should consult the joint ‘owners’ of the material (ASE and CSE) through firstname.lastname@example.org