Is non-stick cookware carcinogenic?

February 25, 2011 by  
Filed under CANCER

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We all love our non-stick cooking ware. Who wouldn’t? Such convenience for the cooking housewives! Unfortunately, recent research evidence show that that favorite Teflon pan or pot may actually be toxic!

According to a study commissioned by the watchdog Environmental Working Group (EWG):

“…cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year.

The problem lies in compounds called perfluorochemicals (PFCs) which are used in the manufacture of Teflon and other household products. It seems that these chemicals are released when the non-stick pan becomes overheated.

A Teflon pan reached 721°F in just five minutes… 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.”

Some of the chronic health effects of PFCs are:

Cancer. The PFC perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which is used in the manufacture of Teflon and other household products was declared in 2006 as a likely human carcinogen by the Science Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA requested manufacturers to reduce the presence of PFOA in these products by 95% in 2010 and eventually phase out the compounds from the manufacturing process. It is not clear whether the target has been net.

Cardiovascular disease. PFCs are found in food packaging and leaches out into the food. PFOA for example leaches out of popcorn bags into the popcorn that we eat. How this food contamination affect our health is not well-understood.

However, there is indication that exposure to PFOA can have an effect on cholesterol levels. Researchers at the West Virginia University report abnormally high levels of high LDL or “bad” cholesterol in the blood samples of more than 12,000 children who were exposed to PFOA after an industrial accident.

Children and babies

PFCs may actually act as endocrine disruptors and cause an imbalance in the body’s hormones, according to Norwegian researchers who observed these in animals. Ewes which were exposed to PFCs passed on the chemical to the unborn fetus and later also via breast milk. In humans, PFCs especially PFOA have been linked to lower birth weights and smaller head circumference in newborn infants whose umbilical blood cord tested positive for high levels of PFCs.

Acute toxicity

Finally, there is direct evidence that severe exposure to Teflon fumes can cause polymer fume fever or Teflon toxicosis. This condition was reported by people who inhaled fumes from overheated non-stick pans and PFC-contaminated cigarettes. People who were exposed reported flu-like symptoms especially respiratory problems. House pets, especially birds have been reported to die from exposure.

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One Response to “Is non-stick cookware carcinogenic?”
  1. Susan Bachelder says:

    I find it scary how much I am reading about teflon as I am researching cookware. I am tired of frequently replacing my teflon frying pans. I got rid of my cast iron cookware about 20 years ago because of the bulkiness. Now I am regretting that decision and might end up repurchasing the cast iron cookware. Thank you for the info

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