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Teflon Coated Cookware – Should You Be Alarmed?

Cookware Advice

Teflon coated cookware tends to be popular primarily because of the nonstick aspect. This is not to mention how convenient it is to use and clean. Having said so it also emits toxic fumes when overheated.

If you use your nonstick pots and pans on a daily basis, you might be exposing your family to hidden dangers. That is because nonstick cookware is made using a carcinogenic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This chemical emits toxic fumes during cooking, which you can end up inhaling.

You can remedy this by choosing safer cookware to reduce the risk of inhaling toxic particles when you let that nonstick pan get a little too hot. Below is a quick guide on teflon coating and how it reacts when you use it.

SPECIFICS OF TEFLON COATED COOKWARE

BENEFITS

Teflon coated cookware has nonstick properties. As the name suggests food will not stick to this cookware when it is cooking.

RISKS

TOXIC FUMES

This type of cookware produces toxic fumes when heated at high heat and this can cause an illness in humans known as polymer fume fever.

HEATING

Teflon coating can heat up to 430º Centigrade within 5 minutes, when left unattended.

DAMAGE

It scratches easily and could release trace amounts of inert plastic into the food when cooked.

HEALTH ISSUES

The coating can contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

  • This is a chemical that is used to bond the non-stick coating to the pan.
  • PFOA has been shown to cause cancer, lower birth weight, and a suppressed immune system in laboratory animals that were exposed to high doses.

HANDLING RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Do not overheat Teflon coated cookware. Try using only at low or medium heat.
  2. Avoid leaving Teflon coated cookware unattended at higher temperatures.
  3. Try to use only wood, nylon, or specially coated spoons and spatulas to prevent surface damage on the teflon coating.

CLEANING TIPS

  1. Don't soak Teflon material pans in soapy water because the coating could retain the soap flavour.
  2. Most teflon material cookware can be safely washed in the dishwasher.
fumes from teflon coated cookware

PRECAUTIONS WITH NONSTICK COOKWARE

FUMES

Toxic fumes from the Teflon coated pots and pans at high temperatures could kill pet birds and cause people to develop flu-like symptoms (called "Teflon Flu" or, as often described, "Polymer fume fever").

INGESTING

Ingesting any particles that flake off a scratched non stick cookware isn't necessarily toxic because solid PTFE flakes are inert.

health issues of teflon coated cookware

LAB TEST RESULTS

  • Manufacturers' labels often warn consumers to avoid high heat when cooking on Teflon material cookware.
  • However, EWG-commissioned tests conducted in 2003 showed that in just two to five minutes on a conventional stove top, Teflon coated cookware and other non-stick surfaces could exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases.
  • So, if you can then avoid teflon material cookware such as teflon crockpots, etc.​

SAFER ALTERNATIVES TO NONSTICK COOKWARE

STAINLESS STEEL SURFACE

stainless steel kitchen saucepan

Pan Kitchenware Steel Stainless Kitchen Saucepan

You can brown foods better with a stainless steel surface.

CAST IRON​

cast iron pan

Cast Iron Pan

These are quite durable and they can be preheated to temperatures that can brown meat. They can also withstand oven temperatures greater than what is considered safe for nonstick.

WHAT ABOUT THE NON STICK I ALREADY BOUGHT?

  • Don't preheat the nonstick cookware at high heat -- empty pans can rapidly reach high temperatures. Heat at the lowest temperature possible to cook your food safely.
  • Don't put nonstick cookware in an oven hotter than 500 degrees.
  • An exhaust fan over the stove can be useful.
  • Keep pet birds out of the kitchen -- the fumes from an overheated pan can kill a bird in seconds. 
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