You know your parents used it when you were growing up and that restaurants use it to cook your food with, but what is teflon? And do you know just how bad teflon can be? Chances are, you probably don’t, but it’s important that you learn what it is and why you should be avoiding it at all costs.
What is Teflon?
Teflon is the trademarked name for the chemical Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). This chemical, which makes things “non-stick” in its use in cookware, should be classified as a “likely carcinogen” (a cancer-causing substance) according to some advisers to the EPA. You would think that that should be enough to get the EPA to ban its use in products meant to heat up and cook food, but alas no…they have just decided that the companies using Teflon should make it less likely to break down. Yep, in effect, everybody can keep using Teflon as long as they figure out a way to keep it from leeching into everything that it is used in…cookware, clothes, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, your mouth, etc. And companies have until 2015 to do so.
Within two to five minutes on a stove, cookware coated with Teflon can exceed temperatures at which the teflon coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to thousands of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year. Sounds safe, right? From the Environmental Working Group:
“In new tests conducted by a university food safety professor, a generic non-stick frying pan preheated on a conventional, electric stovetop burner reached 736 degrees F in three minutes and 20 seconds, with temperatures still rising when the tests were terminated. A Teflon pan reached 721 degrees F in just five minutes under the same test conditions (See Figure 1), as measured by a commercially available infrared thermometer. DuPont studies show that the Teflon offgases toxic particulates at 446 degrees F. At 680 degrees F Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses. At temperatures that DuPont scientists claim are reached on stovetop drip pans (1000 F), non-stick coatings break down to a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB, and a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas phosgene.“
Well that certainly sounds safe, no?
A few years back I switched to stainless steel cookware and have not looked back. They might take a little bit longer to clean up, but it is worth it knowing I am not cooking any additional toxic chemicals into my food, never mind releasing dangerous gases into the air. If you have pans coated with Teflon and have been wondering “what is Teflon?”, now you know – I would really advise you to get rid of them and buy stainless steel or cast iron ones; even cheap ones from Target or somewhere like that are better than using the ones coated with Teflon.
Multiple studies have shown how toxic this stuff is; so would you like a side of polytetrafluoroethylene or perfluorooctanoic acid with your eggs? Did not think so. Teflon is toxic so avoid it at all costs.