In a recent article in my local newspaper I read about non-stick pans and its effect on the environment. I had heard some bad things about teflon and why we shouldn’t use it but never like this.
This excerpt is from The Oregonian Food Day section from Tuesday, August 18, 2009.
Traditional nonstick pans are coated with polytrafluoroethylene, PTFE for short. When overheated PTFE releases polymer fumes that can cause fleeting chills, headache and fever. Those stories you hear about fumes from searing-hot nonstick pans killing pet birds are true: Birds have very sensitive respiratory systems (to be fair, the fumes emitted by overheated cooking oils can kill birds, too).
Now you need to know that PFOA, a chemical used in making PTFE coatings such as teflon, is not only found in non-stick cookware but is also found in items such as eyeglass lenses, waterproof outdoor gear, ball bearings, pizza boxes, and more. Thankfully the EPA classified PFOA as a carcinogen and has urged that companies eliminate its use by 2015.
The important thing to know about non-stick cookware is that if used properly they wont emit toxic fumes but that means keeping the heat to a medium temp or below. But when cooking we rarely use our pans in a low to medium heat. So when you heat to medium-high or above you are abusing your non-stick cookware and causing environmental and health concerns.
So your best bet is to limit your use of non-stick pans or avoid them altogether. Check out the Cookware Consumer Guide for the Big List of the Best of the Best.