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The Dangers of Teflon Cookware

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Written by Jessika Jacob

A few years ago I ousted my non-stick cookware and invested in a set of stainless steel pots and pans.  I had heard a few things about the dangers of Teflon®, but never looked into it myself, until this evening.  I knew then, that it was a good move, and now I know it was a very good move.

When Teflon® is heated, say, on an electric stove, the particles break down and offgas some extremely toxic fumes.  “DuPont studies show that the Teflon® offgases toxic particulates at 446°F. At 680°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.”

It only took a few minutes for a test on an electric stove to heat the pan to these temperatures.  Scary!

Birds exposed to these fumes experience what is called “Teflon® toxicosis“, in which their lungs fill up with fluid and they suffocate.  The FDA does not have any branch to test or “approve” cookware.  That wasn’t something that had ever crossed my mind before.  It makes sense with the recent recalls and news due to lead paint, BPA, aluminum, cadmium, etc., in tons of everyday, every household cooking and kitchen items.

The Environmental Working Group has even petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to require non stick cookware to carry a warning label stating the deadly effects Teflon® offgasses have on pet birds.  If Teflon® is killing birds, what is it doing to us?  The off-gasses of Teflon® cause “polymer fume flu,” which has your regular flu like symptoms, fever, headache, chills, and nausea.  Lovely. 

“DuPont’s own research suggested a link between PFOA and rare birth defects in animals. Of the seven pregnant women at the West Virginia plant, two of the seven babies born bore similar serious birth defects. In response to the EWG petition, the EPA fined DuPont 16.5 million US dollars (USD) in December 2005 for failing to report the dangers of PFOA.”4

Teflon® is a “perfluorochemical” (PFCs). And according to the Environmental Working Group, (EWG), “PFCs virtually never break down in the environment and has been found to contaminate most of the US population, including 92 percent of children tested to date.”

“In laboratory animal studies, high concentrations of PFCs cause harmful changes in the liver and other organs. Developmental problems (e.g., delays in growth and maturation) have been seen in the offspring of rats and mice exposed to PFCs while pregnant. Both PFOA and PFOS in high concentrations over a long period of time also cause cancer in laboratory animals.”

In addition to the above aforementioned risks and hazards, the chemicals used to make Teflon® are known carcinogens.

More Reading:

Is Teflon® Dangerous?

The Dangers of Teflon

Environmental Working Group, Teflon Dangers

References:

1)   http://www.ecomall.com/greenshopping/teflon4.htm

2)  Environmental Working Group

3)  Minnesota Department of Health

4)  The Wise Geek

About the author

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Jessika Jacob