Non-stick cookware has become enormously popular because of its convenience factor, and is now the most popular cookware in the United States. However, millions of people are unknowingly sacrificing their health to save a few minutes in the kitchen.
Sure it’s easy to clean, affordable and incredibly popular, but this cookware is considered toxic by many experts, so this article is to help you help you pick the safest option for your family.
Teflon may be the most popular cookware sold, with some serious advantages when it comes to easy cleanup and also allowing cooks to use less oil and butter. However, it has come under fire in recent years over concerns about toxic chemical emissions, as dozens of reports and studies from both industry and outside sources. So I have talked to numerous experts and looked at the major studies conducted to find out what we should do about this issue.
A Little Background on Teflon
The chemical name for Teflon is polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), and it contains an entire set of fluorine-containing compounds called Fluoropolymers, (which are generally toxic) and are the reason that foods don’t stick. This combination has been used commercially since the 1940s.
Another potential problem with nonstick cookware comes from a chemical used in making Teflon called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), as it has been linked to cancer in laboratory animals, and possible connections to elevated cholesterol, thyroid disease, and reduced fertility. PFOA has come under scrutiny by the EPA because the chemical has shown up in samples of people’s blood, which is concerning because PFOA lasts a long time in both people and the surrounding environment.
Depending on who you talk to, you may find that the majority of people in the know, feel that Teflon cookware is technically safe as long as it’s not overheated, but when it is, the coating will begin to break down at a molecular level, that you can’t see, allowing toxic & carcinogenic particles and gases to be released.
It is said that Teflon pans start to overheat at temperatures at 500 degrees Fahrenheit and above, as smaller chemical fragments are then beginning to be released, and DuPont, inventor and manufacturer of Teflon, Kurunthachalam Kannan, Ph.D., agrees that 500 degrees is the recommended maximum temp for cooking with these items. However, other findings show that the coating begins to break down and release toxins into the air at only 446 degrees. The next question is how fast will a nonstick pan reach 446 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit? What was found is that it only takes 2-5 minutes to hit these temps, and for non-stick cookware to emit at least six toxic gases.
During some nonstick cookware lab tests, the results were surprising when showing how quickly some pans got too hot, and at very high temperatures. At 660 degrees Fahrenheit and above, these pans can significantly decompose, emitting fumes strong enough to cause “polymer-fume fever”, a temporary flu-like condition marked by chills, headache, and fever. These fumes won’t kill you, but they can kill pet birds, whose respiratory systems are more fragile. After about three to five minutes of heating, when the pans reach 680 degrees, they release at least six toxic gasses, including:
- Two carcinogens
- Two global pollutants
- MFA, a chemical deadly to humans at low doses
The manufacturer of the leading non-stick cookware brand, claims that the coating does not cause a problem under “normal use.” with significant decomposition of the coating only occuring only when temperatures exceed 660 degrees F, and say that these temperatures are well above the normal cooking range. However, results from a study conducted by a university food safety professor that found a generic non-stick frying pan reached 736°F in three minutes and 20 seconds when heated on a conventional, electric stovetop burner. And the temperatures continued to rise after the test was stopped. The leading non-stick cookware rose to 721°F in five minutes under the same conditions, and if you heat non-stick cookware to 1000°F, the coatings will break down into a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB, that is a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas phosgene. So your best friend in the kitchen may actually be your family’s worst health enemy.
If you use your non-stick pots and pans on a daily basis, they are likely to scratch and chip at some point, increasing your risk of releasing poisons in your home! It’s widely known that non-stick coatings that are chipped, scratched, or worn away, release even more chemicals into the air. Even the manufacturer of the leading non-stick cookware brand acknowledges that fumes from this cookware can sicken you, and a survey of workers who complained of the symptoms reported:
- Fever between 100 & 104 degrees
- Chest Tightness
- Shortness of Breath
- Sore Throat
Also there was an increase in prostate cancer in PFOA plant workers, and other studies have also found evidence of birth defects in babies from PFOA-exposed workers. In 1981, two out of seven women who worked at a plant that manufactures non-stick cookware gave birth to babies with birth defects. The manufacturers then moved 50 women workers at the plant to reduce their exposure to PFOA.
Further, animal studies of PFOA posed health hazards including:
- Serious changes in organs including the brain, prostate, liver, thymus, and kidneys, showing toxicity.
- Death of several rat pups that were exposed to PFOA.
- Changes in the pituitary in female rats, at all doses. The pituitary controls growth, reproduction, and many metabolic functions. Changes in the size of the pituitary are considered an indication of toxicity.
- An association with tumors in at least four different organs in animal tests.
So What DO I Cook With?
Now you’re probably wondering what is safe to cook with, that won’t take me an hour to get clean? The best choice out there is ceramic cookware, which is not only extremely durable and easy to clean , as even the toughest cooked-on foods can be wiped away after soaking it in warm water, it is also completely inert, which means it won’t release any harmful chemicals into your home, so you and your pet bird can breathe a sigh of relief!.
- Aluminum cookware is not recommended because it is a suspected factor in Alzheimer’s disease.
- Stainless steel cookware is not recommended because it contains nickel, chromium, molybdenum & carbon, that can be an issue if the cookware is pitted due to the extended use of acidic foods. For those with nickel allergies, it’s a particularly important problem.
- Copper cookware is also not recommended because most copper pans come lined with other metals, creating the same concerns noted above. (Copper cookware must be lined due to the possibility of copper poisoning.