|Photo by BobPetUK|
Step into the cookware section of your local store and your likely to see row after row of non stick pots and pans. The vast majority of cookware today is coated with a non stick surface. It's popularity is no surprise. It makes cooking easy and clean up a snap but it has also been shown to release toxic chemicals when overheated.
Gases released from the non stick surface are a leading cause of death in pet birds and have been shown to cause "Teflon flu" in humans. Symptoms include chills, headache, fever and nausea. Most people will mistake these symptoms for the common flu.
Non stick pans are metal pans that have been coated with polytetraflurethylene (PTFE) the most common brand is Teflon, a DuPont trademark. Gases that are released by the non stick surface are complex in nature and vary in composition with temperature.
One of the most studied chemicals released is perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA). The EPA has declared PFOA a likely human carcinogen. It has been shown to cause cancer, birth defects and impaired brain development in lab animals. It is released in Teflon pans at 680 degrees F (360 degrees C) which is easily reached in just 3-5 minutes if a pan is left preheating on the stove. DuPont acknowledges this but says it is incorrect use of the cookware.
In a decade long study, conducted by a UCLA based team of scientists, of almost 100,000 children and and their mothers found that women with higher levels of PFOA in their blood experienced more difficulty conceiving and had twice the risk of infertility compared to women with lower PFOA levels.
DuPont insists that Teflon is safe with proper use but has also announced plans to phase out the chemical by 2015.
If you are stuck using non stick pans it is important not to overcook or burn the food. Don't preheat the pan and use only low to medium heat.
The safest option is to replace your non stick as soon as possible. Good replacements are stainless steel, cast iron and glass.
Environmental Working Group
The Daily Green
Maternal levels of perfluorinated chemicals and subfecundity
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