Over the years I have invested countless hours looking into foods that nourish health…
I’ve also spent countless hours in the kitchen preparing and cooking these foods for my family, and know just how important it is to have good cookware that will speed up the process. The allure of non-stick, for its’ convenience and time-saving, has led many of us to buy Teflon coated pots, pans and utensils
Nowadays however more and more information has come to light showing that this type of cookware poses serious health risks, and not simply when the coating becomes scratched or chipped. Below I look at some of the problems with Teflon and discuss safer cookware options for using at home.
It is now known that Teflon and other non-stick surfaces emit dangerous fumes when heated1. Heat causes tiny Teflon particles and chemical fumes to be released into the air, which are so toxic they can kill household pet birds 1. In the 1950’s, workers at the company DuPont, who first created the Teflon polymer, began getting sick with polymer fume fever, complaining of tightness of chest, malaise, shortness of breath, headache, cough, chills, temperatures between 100 and 104°F, and sore throat2.
Scientists started to study heated Teflon and found that polymer fume fever could potentially become fatal by progressing to a condition known as pulmonary edema2. The Environmental Working Group stated: “Since DuPont’s discovery of polymer fume fever, cases have been reported in the peer-reviewed literature of the same illness stemming from home kitchen exposures”2. Looking at the symptoms of polymer fume fever, I wonder if we sometimes mistake our possible exposure to toxic fumes as simply being signs of the flu.
The Environmental Working Group examined 16 peer-reviewed studies spanning 50 years of research into Teflon and compiled the following points2:
- Heated Teflon decomposes to 15 types of toxic gases and particles.
- The released gases are complex mixtures that vary with temperature but at any given temperature comprise one or more dominant chemicals, plus other chemicals present in trace quantities.
- Two chemicals are linked to cancer or tumors in laboratory studies (PFOA and TFE);
- Two chemicals that are potent global warming gases (PFB and CF4);
- Two chemicals are warfare agents (PFIB and MFA) and one is a chemical analog of WWII nerve gas phosgene (COF2);
- At least two chemicals have widely contaminated the world (PFOA and TFA), one of which is undergoing a rigorous safety review at the Environmental Protection Agency (PFOA);
- Four gases are highly persistent environmental pollutants, that likely never break down in the environment (TFA, PFOA, CF4, PFB, and the perfluorinated particulate alkanes)
- Four chemicals are considered highly toxic relative to most other industrial chemicals (PFIB, MFA, COF2, HF).
- The government has not conducted a safety study of Teflon cookware; accumulation of the offgas chemicals in food has not been studied, nor have the potential effects to humans of inhalation exposures been studied.
As soon as possible it is best to begin phasing Teflon and other non-stick cookware out of your home! Safer alternatives that produce excellent cooking results include2:
- Stainless Steel- a good alternative to non-stick pans, shown to brown food more effectively.
- Cast Iron –extremely durable, can brown food effectively, and be used in the oven.
- Porcelain Enameled Cast Iron (such as Le Creuset enameled cast iron pans) – highly durable and dishwasher safe.
- Ceramic (such as Mercola ceramic cookware) – non-reactive, no chemicals, toxins, or gases produced while cooking, dishwasher safe. Note that care must be taken with ceramic cookware to prevent breakage.?
As always there is much to consider and implement when we wish to protect our family’s health.
2. Environmental Working Group Teflon Toxicosis: DuPont has known for 50 years. https://www.ewg.org/node/8302
3. Mercola https://cookware.mercola.com/ceramic-cookware.aspx