By Fredrica Syren:
I remember when Teflon became a household name. Teflon frying pans were perfect to cook in since — as with any non-stick pots, pans and bakeware — nothing stuck to them. You could use very little or no oil, making cooking super easy and the pans extremely convenient to use and, of course, to clean. I mean, who wants to spend hours scrubbing off food cooked on to pots and pans? Teflon’s use has been widespread since the 1940s, but suddenly we’re getting worried about it all. Why?
Decades later, the truth about Teflon and its manufacturer, DuPont, is being revealed through many lawsuits filed against the company. Today there are actually 3,533 cases against DuPont. So far, reports and lawsuits show that Teflon contains harmful chemicals that have been demonstrated to cause kidney, testicular and thyroid cancers, as well as high cholesterol; and that DuPont either knew or suspected it to be so but never revealed its findings to the public. How is Teflon dangerous for day-to-day use? First, Teflon coating has been shown to, within two to five minutes of normal stovetop use, break down to a point at which it releases toxic chemicals into the environment – 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.
Furthermore, the DuPont manufacturing plant in the Parkersburg, West Virginia, knowingly for decades has released the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) into land and water, which has caused damage to both animals and humans in the process. PFOA, also known as C8 and perfluorooctanoate, is used to keep coatings like Teflon from clumping during production. PFOA has been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the general U.S. population.
PFOA is known to cause cancerous testicular, pancreatic and liver tumors in lab animals. One laboratory study even suggested possible DNA damage from PFOA exposure, and another study of workers linked exposure with prostate cancer. During this time, DuPont knew these risks and findings, yet did everything in its power to cover it up. In fact, DuPont had been conducting secret medical studies on PFOA for more than four decades. In 1961, DuPont researchers found that PFOA caused cancer in lab rats but never disclosed this. The really scary part is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A) was alerted in 2001 about this but essentially has done nothing. In the meantime, more and more people have been exposed and more chemicals have been released into the environment. I’m horrified to learn that it took this long for them to be exposed and feel like DuPont as well as the E.P.A needs to be held responsible for withholding the truth for so long and in the process killing the environment and people.
So what are the safe options for cooking? I think it’s safe to say that 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.