What Is Teflon And Why You Should Avoid
Non-stick cookware is nothing new; it has been used for a few decades now for obvious reasons. The sales figure are evidence enough as about 90% of aluminum cookware sold have Teflon coating. Many people use these products without having adequate knowledge on proper usage or possible risks that may arise from continued use of such products. Teflon is famous due to reasons such as resistance to scratches and abrasion, high surface resistivity, cryogenic stability and chemical resistance. This article will break down all the facts and hazards for the user to make an informed decision. There are also a lot of myths that have come up over the years regarding the use of Teflon. The question that is many Teflon users’ minds is “Just how safe are non-stick cookware?” This article will increase your knowledge on what is Teflon and why you should avoid it.
What does Teflon mean?
You may have heard the word Teflon many times, especially in areas dealing with kitchenware sale. Teflon is a widely used as the preferred cookware in many homes across the world since the 1960s. The brand has a reputation for high-performance and high-quality products for home and industrial use. The growing popularity is because Teflon makes products that are durable, repellent, easy to clean and very convenient to use. Consumers should note that not all not stick coated cookware is made with this special coating.
What is Teflon made of?
Teflon being a trademarked and brand name. It refers to food grade human-made chemical Polytetrafluoroethylene just abbreviated as PTFE. PTFE is a high-performance, and stable fluoropolymer that has been in commercial use since the 1940s, originally developed by DuPont Corporation. PTFE is composed of carbon and fluorine. The chemical is hydrophobic, oleophobic and non-reactive as a result of the strong carbon-fluorine bonds. It is non-reactive due to its stable feature which ultimately provides a frictionless surface. It is owned by Chemours and utilized on a broad range of everyday products sold in the leading stores around the world. Being hydrophobic implies that it cannot be wet by water making it a favorite choice for cookware. Other properties of PTFE include:
a. High molecular weight – being a polymer, the number of subunits in PTFE is infinite.
b. High electronegativity.
c. Thermoplasticity – means it changes properties when heated or cooled. The bonding structure and the strength of the bonds make this possible.
d. Excellent dielectric properties – it does not release electrons quickly making it an ideal insulator.
What is Teflon used for?
Teflon is used to manufacture most cookware like pans, bakeware and non-stick pots. The final coating of cookware features dried durable non-stick material which brings about stress-free cleaning and non-stick characteristic expected of Teflon products. Apart from cookware, manufacturers widely use PTFE in stain and water resistant clothes, furniture, rugs and carpets, and as a repellent of grease in food wrap and containers like pizza boxes.
Precautions/tips when using non-stick cookware
If you are stuck with Teflon, is vital that you follow the below guidelines to keep your household safe from the dangers associated with non-stick cookware usage.
• Avoid preheating the cookware at very high temperatures as empty pans or pots reach high temperatures faster. Test have confirmed that when you preheat a non-stick frying pan, it reaches 736 degrees Fahrenheit in a little over three minutes. DuPont has pointed out that Teflon releases at least six toxic gases at 680 degrees Fahrenheit. Two of the gases are carcinogens, two are global pollutants, and one is MFA which is hazardous at low doses. Use low temperatures instead for safe cooking.
• Ensure that pet birds are safe by keeping them away from the kitchen to protect them from toxic fumes that may instantly kill them.
• Avoid putting non-stick bakeware in an oven that is hotter than 500 degrees
• If you are shopping for new cookware, go for safer alternatives. That will be your first step to change your cookware. Hopefully, you will soon have a new set of more reliable cookware.
Dangers/Risks of using Teflon
1. Heating the non-stick pans and pots at high temperatures releases toxic fumes that may kill pet birds in your home. Toxic fumes may also affect you, making you develop flu-like symptoms called Teflon flu or Polymer fume fever. Teflon Flu develops after prolonged exposure to off-gassing non-stick pans, and as a result, very few people link the symptoms to the condition. Symptoms include chest tightness, headaches, influenza, fever and coughing. You should, however, note that particles that flake off the pots are not toxic when ingested because solid PTFE flakes are inert.
2. Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) – one of the chemicals in Teflon that the human body should not ingest. In spite of its use slowly phasing out, a lot of people still use non-stick cookware with this polymerization aid. Such chemicals are considered to be carcinogenic to humans, often associated with a greater risk of thyroid disease, heart disease and stroke. Other conditions linked to PFOA after several years of research include high cholesterol, testicular and kidney cancer, ulcerative colitis and pregnancy induced hypertension. Such are the risks that about 3500 people have sued DuPont for damages.
3. Product made up of Teflon release chemicals that result in risks such as abnormal thyroid hormone levels, elevated cholesterol, smaller than normal birth size and weight of newborn babies, weakened body immune system and liver inflammation.
4. Manufacturing Teflon products pose a great danger to the environment and wildlife due to their toxicity and bioaccumulation.
Alternatives you can use in place of Teflon cookware
With consumers being aware of the dangers associated with the use of Teflon, many have started to look for other options. Manufacturers have realized this and have come up with new and improved cookware choices, the result being flooding of PFOA-free cookware in the market. You should however never believe everything you see or hear; some advertisements are false and misleading. They just aim at getting more customers without putting into consideration their safety from the use of the advertised products. Some of these options may be harder to clean when compared to non-stick pots and pans, but your health comes first. Don’t compromise your health for a small chore like dishwashing.
• Stainless Steel- Stainless steel is a perfect and safe alternative for Teflon or any other non-stick cooking surface for that matter. In addition to being safer, they also brown foods better according to most chefs.
• Cast iron also termed as a natural non-stick is an equally impressive substitute to Teflon. Besides, it is very durable and withstands extremely high temperatures, temperatures that other non-stick surfaces pose harm to the user.
• Non-stick ceramic cookware which is 100% PFOA and Teflon free. They are more resistant to scratches and have an intense heat resistance, up to 450 degrees Celsius. The coating of ceramic cookware is also said to have better heat conductor than traditional coatings and does not have any pollutants or toxic chemicals.
Many forums have conflicting results on the toxic chemical emissions. Choosing safer cookware will significantly reduce the risk of inhaling toxic particles that may affect you in the long run. By now you have the answers to the question, “What is Teflon and why you should avoid it.” Make the right decision today!