Dangers of Non-Stick Surfaces

Over the past few years, I have found myself wondering about some of the kitchen implements and household products that have been altered with chemically-treated non-stick surfaces. In past eras, kitchens (and other rooms in our homes) did not have such products and there were less allergies, asthmatic problems, and other chronic ailments in our population. Most people are now aware of low-dose toxicities and the effects on both animals and humans. With proof of the correlation between chemically-altered products and illnesses, we should all remain vigilant with kitchen implements, household products, and processed foods. Our lives may depend on our vigilance.

KitchenHearth

Non-stick pots & pans not only touch foods but are used to cook many of the foods we all consume. Some of us have read about the toxic dangers of certain kitchen items, but are we heeding those warnings? I have often worried about those surface coatings on utensils, pots & pans, and cookie sheets. These non-stick products are found in most department stores and specialty shops, but there is more to these products than meets the eye. When we think of non-stick surfaces, most of us immediately think of the Teflon brand, but other companies produce these non-stick items, too.

There are MANY kitchen products available with non-stick surfaces, including one very large kitchen item known as the oven. Yes, self-cleaning ovens use a non-stick surface to obtain that heat-it-high, wipe-it-down convenience.

Several brand-names manufacture non-stick cookware and many of the products are in the homes of millions of people. Those brands include:

  • Teflon
  • Silverstone
  • Fluoron
  • Supra
  • Excalibar
  • Greblon
  • Xylon

The dangerous chemical compound found in the non-stick surface treatments from Dupont is known as polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE. The risks associated with non-stick surfaces is from a chemical known as  perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA.

The Material Safety Data Sheet for PTFE states “when exposed to temperatures above 350 degrees Celsius, PTFE can decompose to produce toxic and corrosive substances, including HF and COF (flourine compounds).”

The MSDS also indicates that negligible decomposition starts at 250-degrees Celsius (483-degrees F), with toxic and corrosive fluorine compound emissions at 665-degrees F. Generally, people are not cooking at such high temperatures, although a 500-degree F oven is used for pizza and other foods.

And speaking of ovens, do you own a self-cleaning oven? If so, have you ever used the self-cleaning feature? A self-cleaning oven can only clean when the oven is heated at very high temperatures. Did you know that your push-button, self-cleaning oven is emitting toxic fumes just for clean oven walls? WARNING: Before you allow your oven to self-clean at the high temperature required, you must follow the manufacturer’s literature explicitly. Even when you can properly ventilate the house, the fumes may very well make you sick. And if you own birds, their safety is at serious risk.

Read more about non-stick surface at the Rachel Carson Council.

If you own self-cleaning ovens, coated cookware, coated baking sheets, an iron, newly developed coated light bulbs, or coated heat lamps, be forewarned as these products are manufactured and sold without adequate warnings to consumers.

“Teflon Flu” or “polymer fume fever” are documented but no serious medical study has been conducted to prove that Teflon is safe for use. The “Teflon flu” can make a person sick with flu-like symptoms if a nonstick pan gets too hot and emits toxic chemicals. In fact, the “Teflon flu” may be causing millions of Americans to get sick each year, but there is no incidence reporting or awareness of this chemical-sickness.

The medical community associates a patient showing flu-like symptoms with a viral flu, not with chemical poisoning. As has been reported by ABC in a 20/20 segment, non-stick surface gas-emissions may be responsible for several birth defects in newborns. And more reports of dead birds surface each year.

PFOA has been determined to be dangerous (a possible human carcinogenic risk) and PFOA emissions must be reduced by 95% by 2010. One EPA study on the potential human health effects is very telling.

I don’t need the ultra-convenience of non-stick cookware and bakeware. I don’t want anything that might emit hazardous or toxic fumes anywhere in my kitchen or in my home. I’ll keep using my stainless steel, cast iron, and enamel pots because they have all been proven with time.

3 thoughts on “Dangers of Non-Stick Surfaces

  1. Hi – Because there’s so much misinformation out there about Teflon, I’m not surprised that you are concerned. I’m a representative of DuPont, and hope you’ll let me share some information with you and your readers, so that everyone can make truly informed decisions. Regulatory agencies, consumer groups and health associations all have taken a close look at Teflon. This article highlights what they found — the bottom line is that you can use Teflon without worry.

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/kitchen/cookware-bakeware-cutlery/nonstick-pans-6-07/overview/0607_pans_ov_1.htm

    I’d truly be glad to share additional information about it if you are interested, and appreciate your consideration of this comment. Cheers, Ross.

  2. Thank you for your comments, Ross, although I would obviously consider your pro-Teflon stance to be biased as an employee of Dupont. Actual scientific information from uninvolved, third-party groups is critical when studying and analyzing safety with respect to products and food safety issues.

    The Consumer Reports article that you provided is actually a simplistic in-house analysis performed by the CR staff. That article is not a compilation of findings as you claimed.

    Additionally, Consumer Reports staff tested the non-stick products up to 400-degrees F which is under-threshold for the toxic chemicals to be emitted. This test did not include the upper limits of the known temperatures, rendering the Consumer Reports test to be blatantly flawed.

    The Consumer Reports article stated, “PFOA emitted by nonstick cookware probably don’t contribute much to your total PFOA exposure”. This is barely a scientific finding. This statement does not provide a concrete result, nor does it provide any measurable exposure dosage. Adding to the fact that the temperatures tested were not within the “danger range” proves this test to be flawed, no doubt in favor of the Teflon-type products.

    More on PFOA can be read through the EPA here:
    http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa/

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