I’ve gotten a few questions lately about healthy cookware, which is a great question to ask. Non-stick cookware was introduced as a healthy alternative to regular, the justification being that less oil would need to be used to cook meats and vegetables. However, we now know it’s not that simple, as the chemicals used to make a pan non-stick have health consequences of their own.
Let’s start with Teflon, the most common non-stick coating. It has an interesting history, for sure! Technically Teflon is a chemical called polytetraflouroethylene, or PTFE, and it was invented all the way back in 1938. It had some industrial uses before it started to appear in commercial cookware in the early 50s. Dupont, the company that patented the technology, “avoided the market for consumer cookware due to potential problems associated with release of toxic gases if stovetop pans were overheated in inadequately ventilated spaces” (Wikipedia). PTFE is still used today in non-stick cookware, and the concerns about high-heat cooking are still valid. Basically, heat the pan much hotter than 300 degrees and toxic fumes can be release – this is regardless of whether the pan is scratched, although scratches will make the integrity of the product even worse.
PTFE is not the only non-stick coating; PFOA is also widely used. Unfortunately PFOA is no better than PTFE health-wise, possibly it’s worse. This is a good article about the dangers of PFOA, which include cancer, low birth weight, birth defects, suppressed immune system and possibly raised cholesterol levels. Again, the chemical is transmitted through high-heat cooking that causes toxic fumes to rise off of the cooking surface. The fumes can [...]