Do you remember when non-stick cookware first came out? Most of us were thrilled and even thought of it as helping improve our health by reducing the need for cooking oil. That and Teflon pots and pans are easy to clean which is a time saver all of us can appreciate. Unfortunately, there are some legitimate health concerns associated with what used to be most household’s favorite cookware.
So Why is Non-Stick (Teflon treated) Cookware So Dangerous?
The answer is that coating that makes up its non-stick surface is made with chemicals like PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) that our bodies were never designed to ingest. The chemicals are released when the cookware is heated with no food is in the pan or when subjected to excessive heat. At only 600 degrees, non-stick pots and pans actually release numerous chemicals, pollutants, and carcinogens. At 1,000 degrees, Teflon cookware releases PFIB (perfluoroisobutene), a chemical that is also used as a nerve agent. Originally, Teflon (polytetrafluorethylene) was a waste by-product of the production of Freon. Both PFOA and PFIB and other chemicals found in Teflon finishes are labeled by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as ‘likely to be carcinogenic to humans’. Unfortunately, at this time there aren’t any federal government regulations for cookware.
Health Effects of PFOA
Research has associated both high and low blood levels of the chemical PFOA with a greater risk of thyroid disease, stroke, and heart disease. While these are serious health concerns that develop over time, just heating Teflon can have a more immediate effect on the body. Cooking with non-stick cookware at high temperatures can result in an ailment referred to as ‘Teflon flu’ from inhaling the toxic gases released. The symptoms of Teflon flu are similar to suddenly developing common flu, including chills, fever, headaches, chest tightness and coughing.
The chemicals released from non-stick pans get worse over time because most are made with cheaper materials that are easily chipped and flake. Also, as the non-stick cookware ages, these toxic chemicals are released into the food you cooked. This means that you won’t just be breathing in toxic fumes, you’ll be consuming chemicals as well.
Teflon Toxicity and Birds
If you have a bird as a pet, simply using non-stick cookware can kill your treasured family pet. The fumes released from Teflon can be fatal. Veterinarians have reported that hundreds of birds die every year due to Teflon toxicity.
Fortunately, there are several cookware options that you can use that are chemical free. Glass and clay cookware are great choices for baking. Copper and stainless steel pans are popular options as well and favored by both professional and practicing chefs. Most people who use stainless steel report that it actually browns foods a lot better than pans with non-stick surfaces. Another popular option is cast iron cookware which is easy to take care of, durable and if properly seasoned rarely sticks and performs better over time. All of the cookware options mentioned here can easily replace toxic, non-stick cookware, something we all should do to protect ourselves, our families and our pets.