If you haven’t yet relegated your nonstick cookware to the dustbin, you now have even more reasons to do so now.
Even though Teflon™ (technical name: PTFE or polytetrafluoroethylene polymer) has been on the market for more than 50 years, numerous studies show that it can offgas toxic chemicals at high heats. The Environmental Protection Agency says it is “likely” that Teflon™ causes cancer.
Now a recent study implicates Teflon™ in thyroid disease. A British study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (affiliated with the National Institutes of Health) shows that people with high levels of perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA), a compound found in Teflon™, are more likely to develop thyroid malfunction as well as to have various types of cancers.
Teflon™ is used in cookware, but also found in stain resistant carpet and fabric coatings.
Dupont, the manufacturer of Teflon™, says the non-stick coating is safe and adds that it has had no adverse health effects in humans. It adds that there is conflicting evidence on the thyroid issue.
Trace amounts of PFOA have shown up in blood samples taken from people across the country. When rats and mice were exposed to PFOA in far greater amounts, they developed brain tumors.
Now, an EPA advisory panel reports, “PFOA is a likely carcinogen in humans.”
In terms of toxic fumes, Dupont says its cookware doesn’t decompose, possibly releasing toxic gases, until the pan reaches 680 degree Farenheit.
However, those high heats are easy to achieve. Studies show that an empty pan left on a burner for as little as three minutes can reach temperatures of 700 degrees.
PTFE fumes certainly effect birds and other small animals and there is evidence they effect humans. Studies report flu-like symptoms experienced by people who are near fumes from nonstick pans. The Environmental Protection Agency has even given the syndrome a name: polymer fume fever.
Other studies show that even higher temperatures cause the release of several other types of toxic gases.
All cookware with nonstick coatings can have the same problems, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). More information on the Teflon™ studies is available from the EWG.