Teflon, the common, non-stick coating which has made our lives easier also comes with a risk to health. It’s been around 50 years or so and will remain with us, literally forever due to the fact it doesn’t break down. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is the key ingredient in Teflon. After being studied, PFOA has been named a “likely carginogen” by the EPA. In 2006, the chemical industry voluntarily agreed to a U.S. EPA plan to reduce and eventually eliminate the release of PFOA into the environment and to reduce and eliminate any PFOA content in products.
Fumes from non-stick pans are released at high temperatues. These fumes can cause flu-like symptoms in humans, although very rarely, and are fatal to birds. Regulatory agencies like the EPA suggest using non-stick pans at no higher than 350°C or 650°F.
Alternative cookware materials which aren’t coated are available, but remember all metal pans will release metal into food during the cooking process. Cast iron pans are thought to be a good way to increase iron levels. This is not good, however, if you have hemochromatosis. Stainless steel, cast iron, copper, glass and ceramics are other options for cookware.
PFOA’s can also be found in other products like water or stain resistant clothing, carpets and furniture treatments, packaging for greasy fast foods, microwave popcorn containers, nail polishes and shaving cream. It gives a slippery, non-stick, stain and water resistant finish to many household products.
Copyright Lynn Argent, 2008. Reproduction is not permitted without written consent of the author.