Over the past few months I have had the privilege to try out a couple of different Teflon alternatives. I haven’t used Teflon pans since I first married. Are they convenient? Yes. Do they work as a non-stick pan? Yes and very well I might add. The problem not whether or not it performs, it is how safe is it?
Teflon is the trade name for PTFE. PTFE is hydrophobic, meaning it doesn’t stick to water or water-containing substances (anything that’s wet). Studies have shown that in about 5 minutes, a Teflon-coated pan heats up to around 750ºF. According to the Environmental Working Group, when the PTFE heats to this temperature it can release toxic compounds, including highly corrosive and lethal gases, and PFIB, a chemical warfare agent that is 10 times more lethal than phosgene (a chemical warfare agent used in WWI and WWII).
So What Happens as a Result?
If you do a little looking on-line you can easily find many, many cases of instances where birds (who are especially prone to the toxicity of PTFE) have developed “Teflon toxicosis” where the lungs of exposed birds hemorrhage, filling up with fluid and leading to suffocation. That is a scary thought, because if it can have that effect on birds exposed to PTFE, what is it doing to us?
Teflon toxicity in humans causes polymer fume fever. This is a temporary and intense, influenza-like syndrome but is not very serious. Polymer fume fever is only caused from exposure to PTFE breakdown products. Another alarming factor to consider is that PTFE residuals, known as perfluorocarbons (PFC’s) were found in breast milk from all 45 nursing mothers tested in this study.
Although Teflon is considered safe, we have decided that for our family, we will use other cooking alternatives. There are many popular choices available:
- Ozeri Green Earth Line-I had the privilege to review a wok from the Ozeri Green Earth line that uses a ceramic finish and is PTFE and PTOA free. They are amazing and will not disappoint!
- Beka Eco-Logic Line-These are also truly a green pan! They are European designed and they truly took all green aspects into consideration when manufacturing this line of pans. Also using a ceramic finish they are PTFE free! I would highly recommend these pans, you won’t be disappointed.
- Stainless Steel-Always a popular choice because it is one of the most inert metals, though it has been reported to leach a small amount of chromium and nickel.
- Cast Iron-We love cast iron cookware! Once seasoned properly, cast iron can become a great non-stick type cooking surface. They do take some special maintenance, but they are inexpensive and add iron to your diet. A huge plus is that they last forever.
The bottom line is each one of us has to decide what is acceptable for our own families. After looking into the effects of PTFE, we decided that the risks were not worth the benefits since there are other alternatives.