Teflon-coated cookware, especially pans, are found in every kitchen. Everybody uses it as it prevents food from sticking to it and is easy to clean. In the recent years, many people have stopped using Teflon-coated cookware in the fear that it can cause certain cancers or liver and kidney diseases.
If you still haven’t discarded them, then it’s good because studies show that such fears may not be entirely true. Nevertheless, even if there is a negligible possibility of danger, you can still look for alternatives and safeguard yourself. Here’s what the studies show.
What Is Teflon And Why Do We Use It?
Teflon is a brand name for a man-made chemical known as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which is a synthetic resin with a high melting point. The reason for its popularity is because of its tendency to prevent food from sticking to the surface of the cookware, which helps us to reduce the quantity of oil to cook food.
What Are Its Harmful Effects?
Toxic fumes from the Teflon chemical released from pots and frying pans at high temperatures may kill pet birds and cause people to develop flu-like symptoms.1
When exposed to different temperature levels, it releases various toxic fumes and gases that can be harmful and rarely even lethal.2
PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), a synthetic compound, is often considered as a health concern as it remains in the environment and in the human body for a long time. Studies show that PFOA is present at very low levels in everyone’s blood worldwide. Higher blood levels are present in community residents where local water sources are contaminated by PFOA.3
Most studies pertaining to its dangers are performed in animals such as lab rats. Animal studies show that exposure to PFOA increases the risk of certain tumors of the liver, testicles, breasts, and pancreas in these animals. Some studies even suggest an increased risk of testicular cancer, kidney cancer and thyroid cancer with increased PFOA exposure. Research also points to the possibility of developing other cancers, including prostate, bladder, and ovarian cancer. 4
Other medical conditions that may occur due to exposure to PFOA include,
- Low birth weight
- Early puberty
- Infertility and reproductive disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
- Liver and kidney disease
- Thyroid disease
- High cholesterol
- Respiratory disease
But not all studies have found such links, and more research is needed to clarify these findings. Moreover, it is not clear if the chemical will affect humans in the same way it affects animals.5
The possible long-term health effects of PFOA are not known and is being researched by the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and other agencies.
Earlier research revealed that except for the possible risk of flu-like symptoms from inhaling fumes from an overheated Teflon-coated pan, there are no known risks to humans from using Teflon-coated cookware. Although PFOA is used in making Teflon, it is fully absent or only present in extremely small amounts in Teflon-coated products.6
Alternatives To Teflon-Coated Cookware
- Cast Iron – This is an excellent option for oven or stovetop use and is extremely sturdy.
- Stainless Steel – This may require slightly more oil than a non-stick pan, but it’s safer and very durable.
- Ceramic – Ceramic and glass-ceramic baking and stovetop cookware work just fine.
- Glass – Glass can be used for baking and are completely safe, but they can’t be used on stovetops.
Tips To Cook With Non-Stick Cookware
- Never preheat non-stick cookware at high temperatures. Empty pans rapidly reach high temperatures. Heat at the lowest temperature possible to cook your food safely.
- Don’t place non-stick cookware in an oven hotter than 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use an exhaust fan or a conventional chimney over the stove.
- Avoid using the self-cleaning function on your oven as it reaches high temperatures, which can release toxic fumes from non-stick interior oven parts.