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I know what you’re thinking: “No, my nonstick pans from Ikea are safe!” Well, I have some bad news for you, and you might not like it. The truth is, even though nonstick pans might be safer today then they were ten years ago, all nonstick pans are harmful. All nonstick pans likely hurt more than they help. All nonstick pans are worth replacing! If you’re hoping to completely protect you and your family from hormone disruption or cancer risk, then all the nonstick cookware in your kitchen should probably be replaced with some safer options. While this will most likely add to the amount of time you spend cleaning dishes every night, or even mean you’ll need to invest in more cooking oils, it will also greatly better yours and your family’s health and protect you from perfluorinated alkylate substance (PFAS) exposure. Here is why you need to know about nonstick pan safety.
Over the course of the last decade, nonstick cookware–which is often referred to by its original brand name, Teflon–has come from a place of complete toxicity to being widely accepted by the public as “nontoxic,” but this acceptance is actually misplaced. We now understand that Teflon is the brand name of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a chemical that was made using surfactant perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, or “C8”), which has come under extreme scrutiny in recent years due to the major health effects it has on humans. Once the carcinogenic potential of PFOA became more widely understood, there was an intense scramble as chemical manufactures attempted to provide substitutes that didn’t compromise the excellent nonstick ability of Teflon or require more cleaning. Dupont introduced GenX in 2009 and claimed it was a safer substitute for PFOA. That’s when everyone reinvested in nonstick cookware and assumed it was safe again!
We all understand that nonstick pans were bad once upon a time, but many of us fully believe solutions have been grasped and there is nothing more to worry about! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, however, this GenX replacement chemical is entirely problematic and in no way safe for consumers. Cookware that has been carefully labeled as “nontoxic” due to them being PFOA-free aren’t nearly as accurate as we’d like to believe, since it turns out that “replacement chemicals” are far from ideal. Studies have now revealed that these “nontoxic” chemicals are demonstrating extreme issues. They’ve undergone evaluation and researchers believe consumer health and safety is at risk.
According to Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist and nontoxic living consultant,
“There was no evidence to support GenX as a safer substitute. It was simply not PFOA, but its structure was quite similar. GenX also falls into the category of PFAS (Or PFC) chemicals. Therefore, it is not shocking that in recent years since GenX came on the market, new research, particularly studies conducted with animals, have suggested that GenX has similar toxic effects as PFOA. So we’d be smart to remove any nonstick cookware made from GenX off our shopping list and get it out of our kitchens too. It should be clear at this point that substituting a known toxic PFAS chemical with a structurally-similar option can’t be trusted as health-protective either. (Sidenote: This alphabet soup of letters can get confusing. Just remember that these abbreviations are a similar class of chemical to avoid: PFOA, PFOS, PFCs, PFAS, C8, etc.).”
What you cook your food in can greatly impact your health, nearly as much as the food you ingest impacts your health. Gardner says, “These “indirect additive” chemicals within nonstick cookware can be detected in your food, so it’s important to take them seriously. Cookware can leach toxic chemicals into your food and can even impact the air quality in your kitchen, releasing unhealthy fumes.” The types of chemicals used in nonstick pans have many health-related hazards and effects. They are believed to have carcinogenic effects, they are known as endocrine disruptors, they impact the fine balance of your body’s hormones, and more! Nonstick cookware has these additional effects:
Gardener goes on to explain that,
“PFAS chemicals, including PFOA, are pervasive in our environment, with exposure detected in all subsets of the population. And they don’t go away… like NEVER! They accumulate in our tissues and in the environment and have been a recent horror story to water agencies across America as they have shown up in tap water. And what is even more disturbing is how difficult is it to get them out of our bodies because of their persistence. Detoxing them out of your body is difficult. They don’t just pass right through us like other endocrine disruptors (eg BPA). This just underscores the fact that we want to consciously limit our exposure and not support the production of these toxic man-made substances inside products in our home.”
Due to the fact that nonstick cookware is increasingly popular, however, it can often be difficult to find other options with which to cook. However, it is still entirely possible to get nontoxic, non-nonstick cookware to add to your kitchen. When looking for pots, pans, or any other cookware to add to your kitchen, be sure to AVOID any nonstick pans, bakeware, speciality pans, or utensils. Additionally, you should AVOID any ceramic-coated or aluminum cookware, since these aren’t nearly as toxic as non stick items, but they are not ideal for using in your kitchen. If you have any of these kinds of cookware in your kitchen, consider replacing them with cast iron, stainless steel, or glass pots and pans. When you look for items in these categories, you’ll soon find an abundance of options and you won’t be endangering your health by using them! These items might take an extra five minutes to wash, or they might even do well with a good soaking, but you’ll avoid exposure to toxic chemicals and reduce your health hazards by a substantial amount.
By: Abbey Ryan Elder, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)