The Dangers of Teflon Pans

January 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm 2 comments The non-stick coating popular on frying pans may, in fact, be an unsavory way to cook.

Though you may love your cookware for its reduced need for added fat, consider this: emerging studies are proving that Teflon-coated metal cooking implements, especially when used at high temperatures, may be leaking toxins into dinner.

The problem is that when the surface gets scratched, tiny amounts of inert plastic and leached aluminum cling to cooked food, with far more toxic results than an extra spoonful of cooking oil. Perhaps more worrisome, though, are the fumes and chemicals released, including highly toxic perfluorochemicals (PFCs/PFOAs) which result when nonstick coatings are heated to high temperatures. Studies by DuPont, the makers of Teflon, show that Teflon offgases particulate at 446°F. At 680°F Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens. DuPont acknowledges that the fumes can sicken people, a condition called “polymer fume fever”.

Far from your kitchen, the chemicals used to manufacture Teflon are also very persistent in the environment. Toxic chemicals released when cooking with Teflon-coated cookware can find their way into the air, water, soil, and our bodies. A 2005 study by the Environmental Working Group, in collaboration with Commonweal, found chemicals including perflourooctanoic acid (or PFOA), a known carcinogen, in the umbilical cord blood of US-born infants. Similarly, researchers at John Hopkins Medical Center released findings in 2006 that PFOA was present in umbilical cord blood of 99% of 300 newborns tested. Also, households with birds should note that Teflon fumes pose a particular hazard to their delicate systems.

In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency asked eight chemical makers, including DuPont, to voluntarily halt their use of PFOA. DuPont Co. said it will honor the request, reducing its use by 95% no later than 2010, and completely by 2015.

Teflon and other products containing PFCs are quite common. The Environmental Working Group’s website has a fairly comprehensive list of the products to avoid or to use with caution.

A Safe Alternative?

What’s the home cook to use instead? Stainless steel is considered a safe option by some, but it’s made by bonding layers of stainless steel with aluminum, which, with use, can also leach into food. Generally, glass, Pyrex, ceramic and ceramic-coated cast iron materials are all considered much safer alternatives to non-stick coated pots and pans. Cast iron cookware is a good alternative, as it is cheap, heats evenly and adds iron to the diet.


Entry filed under: Chemicals in your food, Uncategorized. Tags: , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Connie Immordino  |  January 30, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Found a great pan that is make in Italy by Monetta. It is eco friendly and has a ceramic finish. It does not emit any toxins.
    Have bee using it for over a year.

  • 2. Marie Louise  |  June 6, 2010 at 6:21 am

    There are a much safer and healthier way of cooking and that is with clay. Your veggies stays furm yet soft and the natural sugars gets lock in and the taste … o my goodness it is devine.

    Visit this site and see what I mean.


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