The Dangers of Teflon and Some Nonstick Pan Alternatives

June 1, 2011 One comment View all articles in Home

FACTS ABOUT TEFLON AND NONSTICK PANS:

  • Nonstick coatings, such as Teflon, on cookware products release likely carcinogenic fumes when they are overheated.
  • These likely carcinogens kill pet birds, cause health problems for plant workers, are linked to female infertility, and are persistent in the environment and in the blood of the general US population.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called on companies to reduce facility emissions and product content of these likely carcinogens.
  • PFOA-free nonstick options include anodized aluminum, well-seasoned cast-iron, and pans with an enamel coating.
  • Look for safer cookware options manufactured by Active Concepts Gastrolux, GreenPan, Le Creuset, Lodge Cast Iron, and Revere.

According to the Cookware Manufacturers Association, more than half of the cookware sold today is nonstick. Teflon is a brand name for the high-performance plastic coating that has become synonymous with nonstick cookware, but whether it's called Teflon or not, nearly all nonstick coatings are made the same way and present equal environmental issues. Tests conducted by the Environmental Working Group show that when Teflon pans are heated above 680°F, toxins are produced, including the likely carcinogens tetrafluoroethylene and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Though it is important to note that nonstick pans do not actually contain PFOA, these toxins can be released into the air inside your home when they exceed certain temperature limits, as that is when the coating starts do disintegrate. These toxic fumes have even been linked to the death of pet birds such as canaries and cocatiels. And while birds may have more sensitive respiratory systems than humans, their deaths hardly bode well for the inhabitants of your kitchen when a nonstick pan is overheated.

In manufacturing plants where Teflon or similar nonstick coatings are made, workers have also experienced negative health trends. And a study from UCLA linked the perfluorochemicals in Teflon cookware to female infertility. PFOA lingers in the environment and shows up in the blood of people and animals around the world. In a study that involved 600 children in 23 states, 3M Company found PFOA in the blood of 96 percent of those tested. With the amount of PFOA that's present in cookware and posing health concerns, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says, it's no wonder the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called for a total elimination of PFOA in emissions and product content by 2015.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) website identifies over 200 cookware products that contain nonstick coatings and should be avoided, and recommends that consumers replace their PFOA nonstick cookware with safer alternatives. Several cookware manufacturers have come up with nonstick options that don't use PFOA, including anodized aluminum, well-seasoned cast-iron, and pans with an enamel coating. But with so many products on the market you might be overwhelmed by all the options and terminology. Start by looking at cookware manufactured by the following brands.

SAFER COOKWARE ALTERNATIVES:

  • Active Concepts Gastrolux Cookware features cast aluminum products with permanent nonstick surfaces made with BIOTAN NANO surface refinement. The NANO application of surface refinement is not only permanent, it enhances the surface by making it harder than traditional non-stick cookware. BIOTAN was developed “in accordance with the strict regulations of the Government of Risk Assessment in Germany” and is PFOA-free, according to the Active Concepts website.
  • GreenPan products do not use the traditional non-stick coating made with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), but use Thermolon, a healthy alternative that won't blister, peel, or release toxic fumes like PFOA into your home or the environment. GreenPan's non-stick pots and pans are the first to be manufactured with a coating made of minerals instead of plastics, and the company prevents waste by upcycling stainless steel for the handles and upcycling aluminum for the cookware bodies.
  • Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Cookware has chip- and crack-resistant enamel that won't react to acidic foods, so it is safe to use at any oven temperature and under the broiler. Cast iron is one of the best materials for gentle and thorough heat distribution, but more than simply convenient, the most eco-friendly feature of Le Creuset cookware is its limited lifetime warranty.
  • Lodge Cast Iron has been producing cast-iron cookware since 1896, but has expanded their line to include a collection of enamel-coated, FDA-approved cookware. The company has also worked to minimize its environmental footprint by upping its recycling, decreasing its waste, and improving local water quality.
  • Revere's Copper Advantage line includes practical, quality pots and pans made of stainless steel with protected copper bases. Stainless steel is another option that helps you steer clear of undesirable chemicals, while the copper base provides quick and even heat distribution, which cuts down on energy.

Comments:

tones on Feb. 17, 2012 at 1:50 a.m.

The dangers of using certain products of a no-stick nature were well known but little publicized out side of the scientific community. This was to ensure that the product sold to the general public as being risk free and labor saving (making it easier to clean after use) and that the manufacturers would maximize their profits.

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