I never felt comfortable with Teflon cookware since its introduction in the 1960’s. Intuitively, something bothered me about Teflon and still does to this day. As a result I’ve never used it, favoring instead cast iron or stainless steel.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a polymerization aid originally used for many years in the manufacture of PTFE, also known as Teflon nonstick cookware. These fluorocarbons do not exist in nature. For over 45 years DuPont hid evidence that PFOA was potentially harmful, causing higher incidences of thyroid, pancreatic, testicular and liver disease. The EPA has ruled PFOA a “likely carcinogen.”
Ten years ago DuPont was fined 16.5 million by the EPA over the cover-up of its findings on C8, one of the chemicals used in the manufacture of Teflon. C8 is also found in other non-stick products: stain resistant coatings on furniture, carpets, clothing, household items, microwave popcorn bags, disposable paper plates, fast food wrappers and many other applications. Additionally, DuPont was responsible for keeping its workers in the dark -and- literally poisoning the drinking water in the Ohio River Valley for decades. Phase out of PFOA was ordered ten years ago.
Questions have been raised by the scientific community regarding the prevalence of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) which have been shown to break down little, if at all. They are classed as “persistent chemicals” which means they stay in the body after ingestion or inhalation.
Research indicates that PFOAs are not metabolized by the body and are in the bloodstream of about 98% of the population.
A 2014 report commissioned by the European Food Safety Authority assessed numerous studies relating to the “oral toxicity of PFASs in humans”. The report’s authors concluded that many “PFASs appear to correlate with cytotoxicity,”meaning they are toxic to cells.
DuPont swears this stuff is safe. There were warnings about earlier versions of Teflon flaking and dangers associated when heated at high temperatures. The temperature warnings still exist: those exceeding 500 degrees, and DuPont doesn’t seem concerned about it. However, The Environmental Working Group studies find that preheated pans do top well over the 500 degree range, sometimes into 6 or 700 degrees. Also to be considered – incidences of “teflon flu” – polymer fume fever – which causes coughing and tightness in the chest. Pet birds are particularly sensitive to out-gassing of teflon and can die if exposed to fumes when pans are overheated.
Even though newer pans are marketed as PFOA-free there are still concerns that they may contain other PFASs.
My thoughts? Why cook with something potentially dangerous? I don’t care what DuPont says. You’re cooking on a surface made from a chemical polymer where tests have proven it to be an increased risk of absorbing chemicals.
A much safer bet would be to use stainless steel or, my personal favorite, cast iron. A well-seasoned iron pan works just like teflon and is far healthier. Here’s how to care for cast iron. Simple!