What Is Teflon And Why You Should Avoid It - The Good Human (2023)

Teflon is a household name, found in many homes as the cookware of choice. It is easy to understand why.

Non-stick pots, pans and bakeware are extremely convenient to use and of course to clean. Who wants to spend hours scrubbing cooked on food off after cooking a meal?

But What Exactly Is Teflon?

Teflon is the trademarked name for the chemical Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). It is used in a variety of ways, because it is very non-reactive, due to the strength of the carbon-flourine bonds.

It is also ‘hydrophobic’ meaning that it cannot be wet by water.

It is therefore a popular choice for cook-ware, as well as stain resistant clothes (such as school uniform) and stain resistant carpets.

PTFE is also used as a repellant of grease in food wrap, and containers including pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags.

So What Is The Problem?

It is in widespread use, and has been since the 1940s, so why are we worried about it all of a sudden?

Manufacturers of Teflon have always advised that their cookware should not be heated to extremely high temperatures. They have maintained that the coatings on pans and other products will not emit hazardous chemicals through normal use.

“significant decomposition of the coating will occur only when temperatures exceed about 660 degrees F (340 degrees C). These temperatures alone are well above the normal cooking range.”

However, the following quote taken from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggests otherwise:

In new tests conducted by a university food safety professor, a generic non-stick frying pan preheated on a conventional, electric stovetop burner reached 736°F in three minutes and 20 seconds, with temperatures still rising when the tests were terminated.

A Teflon pan reached 721°F in just five minutes under the same test conditions, as measured by a commercially available infrared thermometer.

DuPont studies show that the Teflon off-gases toxic particulates at 446°F.

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.

(Video) The Truth About Nonstick Cookware: Teflon

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.

So in just two to five minutes of normal stovetop use, the coating breaks down to a point at which it releases toxic chemicals into the environment – which is typically your kitchen.

The other concern is that particles of PTFE can flake off, but it is thought that this does not cause harm when ingested as the chemical is inert when solid.

What Harm Can Teflon Cause To Health?

What Is Teflon And Why You Should Avoid It - The Good Human (1)

The fumes released from non-stick cookware have been known to be highly toxic to birds, as many pet birds die from Teflon toxicosis’ each year.

This is caused when their lungs hemorrhage and fill with fluid, causing suffocation. The deaths usually occur during or immediately after using non-stick cookware, in normal scenarios.

When humans are exposed to the fumes they can experience a condition known as ‘polymer fume fever’. This is characterized by flu-like symptoms, including headaches, chills, fever, coughing and chest tightness.

The side effects do not usually develop until a few hours after exposure to the gases, and therefore many people do not make a connection between the cause and effect.

The long-term effects of such exposure has not been studied. It is possible that many cases that we assume are ‘normal-flu’ are actually caused by Teflon.

As well as health concerns, the manufacture of non-stick compounds including PFCs also pose a serious risk to the environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says PFCs present “persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity properties to an extraordinary degree.

Is It Possible To Use Teflon Safely?

The best option is to avoid non-stick cookware altogether. Safer choices are cast iron and stainless steel pots and pans. Oven-safe glass is the preferred choice for baking.

However, if you currently have non-stick, or teflon products, and are not in a position to change any time soon, there are measures that you can take to protect yourself and your family as much as possible.

Firstly, never preheat non-stick pans at a high heat. This scenario is one that must be avoided at all costs.

(Video) Nonstick Pan Safety ANSWERS

When cooking with non-stick cookware, opt for the lowest possible temperature, while insuring that your food is cooked through safely. Do not use teflon bakeware in the oven over 500 degrees.

Always use the extractor fan when using non-stick pans on the stove to remove some of the gases that might be emitted.

What Is Teflon And Why You Should Avoid It - The Good Human (2)

Also, be sure to keep pet birds out of the kitchen!

Another thing to be aware of is the self-cleaning function inside your oven. If you have this, do not use it. The high temperatures can cause toxic fumes to be released from the non-stick interior surface.

So while there are no conclusive reports, or long-term studies on the implications of using Teflon and other non-stick cookware regarding human health, there is enough evidence to suggest we should avoid it where possible.

Would you like a side of polytetrafluoroethylene with your eggs? Me neither! I have opted for cast iron and stainless steel in my kitchen.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any experience, positive or negative of using non-stick pans? Do you skip the non-stick?

How to Safely Use Teflon Pans

Many kitchens use non-stick cookware that does cooking and cleaning a breeze.

Teflon is a polymer that was a chemical miracle in the 1930s; it is so unreactive that food molecules cannot link to it and slide right off. Polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE, is its chemical name.

PTFE is one of around 4,700 molecules that make up the PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) family of chemicals, popularly known as “forever chemicals.”

They are a kind of synthetic chemical for making fiber-based food packaging water and oil resistant.

Teflon, on the other hand, has been PFOA-free since 2013.

For safe and ordinary home cooking, do not let the temperatures exceed 500°F when using Teflon.

(Video) 4 Types of Toxic Cookware to Avoid and 4 Safe Alternatives

So, on the cooktop, use your non-stick cookware on low-to-medium heat, but not on high heat or for higher cooking techniques like broiling.

Teflon cookware is a healthy and easy method to prepare your meals that are also safe to use daily.

You can cook securely with Teflon by following a few straightforward safety measures in the kitchen.

1. Use pans that are PFOA-free

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Check your cookware labels to say PFOA-free and that you are using non-stick pans made after 2013.

2. Make use of the appropriate cooking utensils

Do not use cooking utensils made of metal or other abrasive materials to protect the PTFE surface of your pan. Instead, use wooden, plastic, or silicone cooking implements to stir and flip your meal.

3. Don’t preheat a non-stick pan that isn’t filled

Add food or liquid before you apply any heat to your non-stick pans. An empty pan will soon reach dangerously high temperatures, posing a risk of polymer fumes escaping.

4. Stay away from extreme heat

When cooking on high heat or broiling, it is better to avoid using non-stick pans. These cooking methods often need temperatures over the PTFE surface’s specified limit.

We suggest using Stainless Clad, Carbon Steel, or Cast Iron Cookware instead if you often cook with high heat.

5. Maintain proper storage

Store your pans correctly to keep their non-stick surface. Hanging is ideal instead of stacking them. If you have to stack them in a cabinet, use a dishcloth or a pan guard to preserve the surfaces.

6. Hand-washing

Dishwashers and aggressive detergents may cause a non-stick surface to degrade. Hand wash your pans in the sink with warm water and mild soap instead of putting them in the dishwasher.

7. Replace any cookware that has become rusted

When the surface of a non-stick pan becomes worn or scraped, you run the danger of inhaling polymer vapors. Replace old non-stick cookware with new pots and pans, or invest in higher-quality non-stick for years.

Safer Alternatives

Did you know that in about 2.5 minutes, a skillet filled with two tablespoons of oil at high heat reaches 514°F?

With that level of danger, it is ideal to seek the best Teflon alternatives, so you shouldn’t have to be concerned about overheating.

(Video) Dangerous Cookware We Should Not Use! Which Cookware Is Safe? Dr Goldhamer & Dr Greger

Instead, use the following cookware:

#1 Non-Stick Ceramic

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Ceramic-coated pans are simple metal pans with a silica sand-based gel cover. Ceramic-coated pans provide several advantages.

Ceramic-coated pans, like Teflon, resist sticking without the need for oil. As a result, you may reduce your calorie consumption, and it also washes off as readily as Teflon, saving time.

But the most significant advantage is that you won’t get any poisonous fumes if you overheat your pan! There is also no pollution of the ecosystem.

Ceramic pans, according to reports, release 60% less CO2 during manufacture than Teflon pans. There is also a vast range of forms, sizes, colors, and construction options.

#2 Cast Iron Pans

Another great Teflon substitute is cast iron. It is all-natural (no artificial coatings), affordable, adaptable, and long-lasting. It is also virtually as non-stick as Teflon when adequately seasoned.

Unlike traditional non-stick pans, cast iron produces a natural non-stick coating that improves with use.

You can make a smooth Teflon substitute with patience and a dab of vegetable oil. It is not relatively non-stick as Teflon or ceramic, but it is close.

It is also a one-time buy due to cast iron’s durability. You will never have to replace it if you maintain it properly. It is also reasonably priced. A $30 pan will outlive a set of Teflon or ceramic cookware.

Finally, cast iron retains heat well and works well on stovetops. Once heated, it is hot for a long time, browning and scorching food quickly. You may also use it on any cooktop.

#3 Stainless Steel

Many families and chefs throughout the globe use stainless steel because of its flexibility. You may also use it to substitute non-stick pans with a few easy tactics.

Unlike traditional non-stick pans, there is no coating to wear away or chip. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is lighter than cast iron. You also don’t have to be concerned with seasoning layers.

What Is Teflon And Why You Should Avoid It - The Good Human (5)
(Video) The SAFEST & BEST Non Stick Pans...And Why To Avoid Teflon!

Because stainless steel does not rust, you can toss it in the dishwasher when you are short on time. It also works on all stovetops and ovens, so there is no need to be concerned about compatibility.

Steel comes in various forms, sizes, and performance levels, much like ceramic pans.

FAQs

What does Teflon do to the human body? ›

Teflon on its own is safe and can't harm you when you ingest it. Particles of flaked or chipped pans that find themselves in food pass through your digestive system don't pose any health risks.

What is Teflon and why is it bad? ›

Teflon is a brand name for a synthetic chemical used to coat cookware. There are concerns that chemicals once used in the manufacturing process of Teflon could potentially increase cancer risk. Those chemicals have not been used in Teflon products since 2013. Today's Teflon is considered to be safe cookware.

What is in Teflon? ›

Teflon is the brand name (Teflon itself is not a chemical) for a man-made chemical called Polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), a polymer that is used for cookware and other non-stick applications. PTFE is a type of perfluorinated compound (PFC).

Does everyone have Teflon in their bodies? ›

Studies have found them worldwide at very low levels in just about everyone's blood.

Is Teflon still toxic? ›

As it stands now, using non-stick cookware as directed is considered “safe.” Since 2013, the companies that make Teflon cookware have been forced to alter the manufacturing process to eliminate PFOA, which means new cookware won't contain the toxic compound.

What is the safest cookware for your health? ›

The safest cookware materials are cast iron, stainless steel, 100% non toxic ceramic, glass, and enamel-coated cast iron (cast iron with a glass coating). These nonstick and non-toxic cookware are not only clean and eco-friendly but also completely safe for our health.

Did the FDA ban Teflon? ›

The packaging substances banned by FDA, in an order that takes effect immediately , are perfluorinated compounds or PFCs, a class that includes the chemicals used to make DuPont's Teflon and 3M's Scotchgard.

How bad is Teflon to eat? ›

Though its name is a mouthful, PTFE won't affect your body if trace amounts get in your food. As an inert chemical (not active or reactive), PTFE will just travel through your system without being absorbed.

When was Teflon banned? ›

Beginning in 2003, its use was gradually phased out in the United States under an agreement between government and industry, and eliminated by 2014. Researchers used data from a larger health study to estimate levels of serum PFOA in women of childbearing age.

Are all non-stick pans toxic? ›

Thanks to a federal ban, all Teflon and nonstick cookware made after 2013 should be free of harmful PFOA.

What the heck is Teflon? ›

Teflon is a name we have been used to hearing from our childhood as it is an important element used in non-stick cookware utensils. Teflon is actually made of a chemical compound named polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) which is a synthetic fluoropolymer which has been under use for various purposes.

Does Teflon stay in your body forever? ›

Regardless of how it gets into our bodies, once there, pfoa stays—quietly accumulating in our tissues, for a lifetime. Teflon is not the only nonstick, non-stain brand that has turned out to be stickier than advertised.

Is Teflon still cancerous? ›

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), “there are no proven risks to humans from using cookware coated with Teflon (or other non-stick surfaces).”

What diseases are linked to Teflon? ›

Inhaling these fumes may lead to polymer fume fever, also known as the Teflon flu. Polymer fume fever consists of temporary, flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, headache, and body aches. The onset occurs after 4–10 hours of exposure, and the condition usually resolves within 12–48 hours ( 19 , 20 ).

Should I throw out my Teflon pans? ›

Nonstick Pans Do Not Last Forever

A good rule of thumb is to replace them approximately every five years. Look at your pans frequently. When they start to appear warped, discolored or scratched, be sure to stop using them.

Is Teflon in our blood? ›

The chemical that's being found in the blood it's not the Teflon, it's the PFOA – the chemical used in making of Teflon. And yes, that particular chemical PFOA is now being found in the blood of living creatures all over the planet, including over 90% of the people on Earth.

Is Teflon safe if scratched? ›

If you see scratches, that means the nonstick Teflon surface has been compromised and the chemicals could be flaking off into your food. Not good! To be safe, once a pan is scratched it's gotta go.

What is the healthiest type of non-stick pan? ›

The best (safe) non-stick pan material

Ceramic-coated pans provide a sleek, Teflon-like surface (great for eggs and pancakes) without the toxins! That's right; this healthy, non-toxic cookware uses a slippery, PFAS-free, sand-based coating. Zero PTFE needed!

Are ceramic pans safer than non-stick? ›

The short answer is yes: there is no Teflon used in its production. Ceramic provides a natural non-stick surface without the use of toxic chemicals in its production. In fact, we take pride in our 100% non-toxic cookware. All of our products are free of PTFE, PFAS, and PFOA, as well as lead, cadmium, and toxic metals.

What did they replace Teflon with? ›

Ceramic. Ceramic cookware is a close alternative to Teflon, and is generally considered to be safe. It is often less resistant to scratching and some brands will lose their non-stick properties at high heat, so be sure to follow user directions carefully.

Do all non stick pans have Teflon? ›

Most nonstick pans are coated with polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as Teflon.

Is Teflon still used in China? ›

So while Teflon began as a quintessentially American brand, China now manufactures most of the world's supply of the slippery substance, which is used in dental floss, textile fibers, wire and cable insulation, and hundreds of other products, including nonstick cookware.

Why you shouldn't use non stick pans? ›

When exposed to heat, most non-stick cookware becomes a source of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is a long-chain chemical compound that has been linked to a frightening range of health problems including thyroid disease, infertility in women, organ damage and developmental and reproductive problems.

How do you know if you have Teflon poisoning? ›

What are the signs of PTFE poisoning? Signs of poisoning may include agitation, rapid or labored breathing, wheezing, incoordination, weakness, coma, and seizures. Sadly, in many cases, sudden death occurs before or shortly after signs develop.

Is there an air fryer without Teflon? ›

The non-toxic, Teflon-free air fryer construction provides excellent heat conduction for even results and won't peel, flake, or release harmful fumes! The included accessory set includes a two-tier stainless steel rack that doubles your cooking area and allows for cooking different dishes at once.

How many countries have banned Teflon cookware? ›

On May 3rd 2019, more than 180 countries agreed to ban the production and use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts, and PFOA-related compounds under the international Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

Is Teflon still used in 2022? ›

While studies have shown some connections (more on that below), Teflon still exists and is used to make cookware, but the safety concerns around Teflon are mostly a thing of the past.

What can I do with old Teflon pans? ›

"One of the safest and most eco-friendly ways to dispose of old cookware is to recycle them at a scrap metal facility, so that the metals can be removed and used for other things," says Dyer.

Why do chefs not use Teflon? ›

The fragility of nonstick pans is the reason that they're rarely found in professional kitchens. Some restaurants don't use any nonstick pans, while others keep a few carefully guarded nonstick pans for egg dishes and delicate fish.

At what temperature is Teflon toxic? ›

DuPont studies show that the Teflon offgases toxic particulates at 464°F. 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.

Why did Europe ban Teflon? ›

Teflon or PFOA is banned from being used in cookware in various countries. Even Teflon manufacturing was restricted to reformulating due to its effect on animals and the environment.

Can your body break down Teflon? ›

While transference is usually minimal, and polymers are large and hard to absorb – meaning Teflon particles eaten at room temperature should pass through the body to little effect – there have been no long-term studies on the ingestion of Teflon, so it is wise to avoid the use of badly scuffed non-stick pans!

How many people have Teflon in their body? ›

The 'forever chemicals' in 99% of Americans

Today, the family of compounds including Teflon, commonly called PFAS, is found not only in pots and pans but also in the blood of people around the world, including 99 percent of Americans.

How do you get PFAS out of your body? ›

Currently, there are no definitive medical procedures that can clear PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) from the body, according to the Secretary of the United States Navy. However, the best step you can take is to remove the source of the exposure from your environment.

When should you throw away non stick pans? ›

Nonstick Pans Do Not Last Forever

A good rule of thumb is to replace them approximately every five years. Look at your pans frequently. When they start to appear warped, discolored or scratched, be sure to stop using them.

How long does Teflon take to break down? ›

It has been estimated that the particles in Teflon will take about 4.4 million years to break down.

Can you use a scratched Teflon pan? ›

If you see scratches, that means the nonstick Teflon surface has been compromised and the chemicals could be flaking off into your food. Not good! To be safe, once a pan is scratched it's gotta go.

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3. The Truth About Non-Stick Pans: Ceramic vs. Teflon
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