Teflon Cookware – The Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Wrong

teflon-select-fry-panTeflon, the non-stick material developed by DuPont, has been the gold standard of carefree cooking since it was introduced in the 1960’s. But is this material really all that it’s cracked up to be? Learn more about the advantages, disadvantages, and misconceptions surrounding this popular material

What Is Teflon?

Teflon is a trademarked combination of fluoropolymers produced only by the DuPont company. Coating pans with Teflon created a non-stick surface. DuPont has licensed the use of Teflon to several cookware manufacturers for use in their products, meaning that you’ll find it used with brands like Calphalon, Farberware, and more.

What’s Bad About Teflon?

Non-Stick is Prone to Scratching.
One of the major disadvantages of using Teflon cookware is that it must be treated very carefully or the non-stick coating can be marred or destroyed. Teflon pans should never be used with metal utensils. If you tend to cut meat or vegetables directly in the pan, steer away from using Teflon!

Overheating Poses Risk to Animals.
Another disadvantage of Teflon is that some of its fluropolymers can emit mildly toxic gases if overheated. While this rarely has any effect on humans, birds and some other types of small animals can become sick from the fumes. You should not allow Teflon pans to reach temperatures above 300°F, and you should keep pets out of the kitchen while cooking.

Good Qualities of Teflon

More Durable than Other Non-Stick Brands.

One of the reasons why Teflon continues to be the top brand in the non-stick industry is that it is applied in layers, which do make it more durable than competitors. The bottom, rough layer allows the Teflon coating to adhere to the smooth cooking surface of a pan. A middle layer resists scraping and scratching, while the top layer provides a superior non-stick surface.

High Grade Versions Allow Use with Metal Utensils.
Some types of Teflon coatings are more scratch-resistant, meaning that they will last longer. Look for Teflon Platinum and other professional varieties for increased durability.

Food Won’t Stick or Burn.

Teflon’s multi-layer coating makes cooking much simpler. Food will not stick to the pan, which makes it less likely to burn. Coatings and batters will remain on the food where they belong, and sauces will blend more easily.

Quick and Easy Cleanup.

Cleanup is much easier with Teflon. Instead of having to scrape away cooked-on food, you can simply rinse away residue. Some Teflon pans can even be used in the dishwasher, though hand-cleaning is so simple that it might not be necessary.

Misconceptions about Teflon
One of the biggest misconceptions about Teflon pans is that flakes of the fluropolymers used in the coating are hazardous if consumed. Since Teflon pans scratch easily, this myth has dissuaded many people from using the non-stick coating. However, there is absolutely no proven heath risk to consuming Teflon flakes. The fluropolymers are inert, meaning that they will not react with your body. Scratches in your non-stick pans are only a cosmetic problem.

If anyone knows of any proven studies which show that teflon is bad for our health please leave a comment and we will write it up on this blog.

Another good post on this topic: http://willtaft.com/health/i-do-not-use-teflon-cookware/

Comments

    • says

      We should also have concerns about Teflon. I am presently doing a show for the Parrot Society in Houston,TX with Moneta’s Ceramica cookware. It is manufactured by Moneta in Italy and has certification for it being non Teflon. If the bird societies are concerned about their animals, I would think we should all be concerned about ourselves and the exposure.
      We need to get rid of Teflon in our homes and find other sources of cookware.

  1. Roger Pelizzari says

    Suggest everyone read all of this material. Teflon DOES harm from the moment it begins to heat up, NOT just at high temperatures!

    Environmental News Service
    Published May 13, 2008
    A chemical used to make non-stick coating for pots and pans, food wrappers and stain-resistant fabrics may harm the immune system, liver and thyroid and cause higher cholesterol in children, according to the initial findings of a study of 69,000 people who live near a DuPont manufacturing plant.

    The health effects observed … are believed to have been caused by exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid, PFOA, also known as C8, …PFOA is one of a class of perfluorinated chemicals used to make Teflon coating and other nonstick products, oil-resistant paper packaging and stain-resistant fabrics. http://www.ewg.org/node/26553

    http://www.rebeccashealthyfoodblog.com/2008/01/dangers-of-teflon.html

    Friday, January 18, 2008
    The Dangers of Teflon

    Many of us have cookware with Teflon coating and you will definitely want to get rid of it after reading this. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is the chemical, which makes things “non-stick.” According to some advisers to the EPA it should be classified as a carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). But instead of banning it, the EPA has decided that the companies using Teflon should make it less likely to break down and they have until 2015 to do so.

    Within two to five minutes on a stove, cookware coated with Teflon can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart. At these high temperatures the pans emit toxic particles and gases linked to thousands of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year. In recent tests a generic non-stick frying pan heated on an electric stovetop burner reached 736°F in just over three minutes. At 680°F Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA which is a chemical lethal to humans at low doses. At higher temperatures non-stick coatings break down to a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB, and a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas phosgene. Looking for options, try stainless steel.
    ———-

    The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit consumer safety organization, has reviewed 16 peer-reviewed studies detailing experiments conducted over the past 50 years, showing that heated Teflon decomposes to 15 types of toxic gases and particles. Non-stick pans begin producing dangerous toxins within just two minutes of heating. In just the first five minutes, they release at least six toxic chemicals including two carcinogens, two global pollutants and a deadly chemical called MFA, which can kill human beings at very low doses

    DuPont scientists list the hallmark human symptoms of polymer fume fever as tightness of chest, malaise, shortness of breath, headache, cough, chills, temperatures between 100 and 104°F, and sore throat, based on a survey of complaints registered by workers who were struck by the illness. Based on this suite of symptoms, cases of polymer fume fever from home exposures could easily be mistaken for the common flu. The toxic particles and gases identified as Teflon offgas products, and the temperature at which they are first identified in the studies reviewed, are shown below,
     
    http://tuberose.com/Teflon.html
    ——————
    When the report first circulated about Teflon causing bird deaths, it was thought that very high heat was needed to release the deadly fumes. Now there are reports that temperatures as low as 285 degrees can cause death to birds.
    Teflon starts emitting fumes from the start of heating. It does not have to be a high temperature or for an extended length of time to cause death to your bird. Small birds breathing these fumes for only a few seconds took as long as 24 hours to die.
    Many people think that Teflon is only dangerous if the pan burns. This danger lurks in other products besides cookware. These do not have to operate at a high temperature to cause damage to your birds. I have listed some products that use polytetraflouethylene. Not all of these use this coating nor are these the only places that it is used. Carefully read all products that you buy before you use them around your bird. If in doubt, call up the manufacturer and asked what he has used in the product.

    ——————————

    (NaturalNews) There seems to be more evidence mounting in the ongoing Perflurooctanoic Acid (PFOA) debate. PFOA is used in the production of Teflon and other non-stick surfaces and is found in the packaging of candy bars, microwave popcorn, fast food packaging like french fry and pizza boxes, bakery items, drinks, paper plates, and a host of “stain resistant” products such as carpets. Other well-known brand names containing PFOA include Stainmaster, Scotchgard, SilverStone, Fluron, Supra, Excalibur, Greblon, Xylon, Duracote, Resistal, Autograph and T-Fal.

    Although the DuPont Corporation has stated that PFOA is only used in the manufacturing process and should not be found in the final products, it must be noted that the chemical is found in the bloodstream of 95% of American men, women, and children. It seems that no one is quite certain how the chemical residue has made it into the bloodstream of such a large number of people if it is not located in the final product. Research has shown that PFOA was still present in the blood for approximately four years after exposure and levels were only reduced by half. It has been implicated by some research to cause increased instances of cancer in the pancreas, liver, testicles, and mammary glands. Also increased were instances of miscarriage, weight loss, thyroid problems, weaker immune systems, and low organ weights.
    http://www.naturalnews.com/022645.html

    Chemical Compound in Dupont’s Teflon a Likely Carcinogen
    The Environmental Protection Agency’s own scientific advisory panel has identified perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical compound used to make Teflon, as a “likely carcinogen” in a report it plans to submit to the agency
    http://www.organicconsumers.org/foodsafety/dupont070105.cfm

  2. says

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  3. Boris says

    So, in other words, that is why americans are dying from cancer more easily and having low immune systems. Everybody cooks with teflon. Today I will destroy mine and never cook with it again.

    • Jacquelyn says

      There are other theories on why Americans are dying from cancer, one being they consume too many animal by products, triggering the cancer. The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II expound on this. Teflon may affect the rise in cancer, but American’s diets seems like a more likely cause.

  4. says

    I don’t think we can assume that Teflon is the cause of people dying from cancer. Cancer was around before Teflon existed and will be around once Teflon is no longer available. Nothing has ever really been proven either way as yet.

    I know that I won’t throw out my Teflon just like I won’t stop eating fish since some studies have shown that it can cause cancer and I won’t stop eating eggs because some studies say that it can cause high cholesterol and I won’t stop using antiperspirants with aluminum because some studies have said it can cause alzheimers.

    If I believed all of these studies I wouldn’t leave my house.

  5. says

    Thanks for the “quick & dirty” on Teflon. We work extensively with this coating and have yet to see any affects attributable to it’s reported toxicity (thankfully). Regardless, I think that it is always wise to monitor developments and perhaps a more direct link will be found in the future. Until then, I think materials like Teflon and others can be used; if we constantly reacted to possible problems, I believe that few people would ever leave their homes.

  6. Mano says

    Don’t panic if a chemical used to make Teflon is carcinogenic – that tells you nothing about Teflon itself. Hydrogen is extremely flammable and oxygen supports combustion, yet their compound water puts out fires. Basic chemistry, people.

    • Taurug says

      Very good point, Mano. Why do websites keep harping on a chemical used in the manufacturing process? Just how many of us are manufacturing teflon pans in our homes?

  7. Connie Immordino says

    I respect all of your opinions, but I understand that DuPont will no longer be making Teflon in a few years. I have been out looking for a line of pans that does not have any toxic materials and when in Italy last year found a company called Moneta that has a line of ceramaica pans. Bought a few and have started to get rid of all my other pan. I just found a site here in the US called http://www.gocookware.com that is carrying Moneta.

  8. Sue says

    The fact that Teflon-derived chemicals have not been proven to cause cancer, or anything else, is immaterial. It takes years and years of research to prove such associations. Do you want to be the guinea pigs while waiting for the results of such research? As far as I’m concerned, there is no good reason to use cookware coated with a chemical that can end up staying in our bloodstreams for years. I’ll stick with my stainless steel pots, thank you!

    • Corey says

      I agree Sue. You should research before “sticking” with stainless cookware. Did anyone ever realize that anytime you have a major surgery such as a hip, knee, or bone replacement that the only metal a doctors uses is titanium? Even the tools in surgery are all titanium. The reason for this is because its light, durable, and doesn’t leach any metals into the body. So yes even using stainless isn’t good. The highest grade of stainless you will find in a store is gonna be 18/10. Which is 18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel. Jewelry made of this has been recalled and that just touches your skin. The cleanest cooking surface in the world is titanium. It is also nonstick but has no coating like Teflon, doesn’t require any water or oil when cooking which is much healthier, and resist chemical reactions with your food. Therefore you can use half the seasonings you would normally use which is healthier, and it will taste like it’s supposed to. Do this, take a 1qt of yours, in stainless and any other metal you might have, put a little water in it, add a level teaspoon of backing soda, and boil for 7 minutes. Taste the water in each individual piece that you want to test, and you will taste exactly what is being emitted into your food. Every different metal cooking surface, even ceramic coated, and Teflon, will have different taste. This taste is what is in your food that you cover up with seasoning. Titanium is the only one that has no reaction to any foods period! Anyone can respond to this and i can give links to titanium cookware distributors. I’ll never cook on anything else!

        • says

          It is titanium surgical stainless steal,its made in america,westbend wi.One of the best quality pans you can buy!The comany has been around since 1944,still going strong.Teflon is scary stuff!Its not just in our pans,it is also on clothing,in veggie bags for the microwave.Popcorn bags,scotch guard spray,its every where!We really need to be smart consumers!Saladmaster is the name of pans that are made so well!Good luck everyone with tring to stay healthy!