The most “frictionless substance” Teflon (PTFE) in the world that was once used in water-repellent coating for tanks and firefighting foam during World War II found its way in our homes – through pots and pans.
Teflon pots and pans gained so much popularity that they were advertised as:
However, the chemical (PTFE), whose simpler and easy to remember name is “Teflon”, was not just a god-gifted natural substance.
The accidentally discovered Teflon possessed the unique chemical properties of thermal stability, low friction, highly insoluble and inertness, and was becoming the cause of concern and raised many alarms.
So much so that Teflon, which was once considered a miraculous gift of chemistry, was found to be causing infertility, congenital disabilities and many types of cancers. Of course, people panicked, and the question about the safety of Teflon was raised.
In This Article
Is Teflon Nonstick Cookware Safe?
The answer is, Teflon cookware is now considered safe for home use if you cook meal on low to medium temperature. But it was not safe until 2013. Earlier, Teflon had a chemical (PFOA) in it which was added into PTFE (Teflon) to keep the substance from clumping during application. If you are still doubtful, you can check our recommendation for the pans without Teflon.
But this man-made substance was causing all the chaos, wrecked situations, conspiracies and most of all, a dreaded impact on health and the environment.
Fortunately, this substance is now banned from being used in Teflon. All Teflon products are now PFOA-free.
However, the research is still going on chemicals that replaced PFOA (we will talk about it later). And high-heat cooking can emit toxic fumes which are not lethal to humans but deadly to birds.
We have shared a bone-chilling and horrifying discovery of PFOA in our article, “Does T-Fal have Teflon?” Don’t miss it to know the back story.
Is Teflon Used in All Non-Stick Pans?
The majority of the non-stick pans have PTFE coating – in other words, Teflon coating. So, yeah, Teflon is not just in Tefal pots and pans; it’s in many different brands too, which don’t have a ceramic coating.
But as we mentioned, all the coatings are now PFOA-free, and you can also check the label for lead and cadmium free to be more on the safe side as lead and cadmium are also toxic materials.
- From above, you must have understood that the PFOA-free label on the pots and pans doesn’t imply that the coating is Teflon free. It still has a PTFE coating.
Does PFOA-Free Mean Teflon Coating is Harmless?
- Teflon coating has a regulatory safety concern. In simpler words, when the Teflon-coated pans and pots are heated above 500° F, the coating starts emitting a toxic fume. This fume can cause “Teflon-flu,” which is lethal to birds and can cause mild chill, fever and headaches in human beings.
This is why non-stick pans are only to cook on medium or high-medium heat, and you shouldn’t exceed the temperature.
The non-stick Teflon-coated pans are not for you if you like to cook on high heat. For that you can check these non-stick pans for high heat, with the best possible temperature a pan can withstand.
- Another thing is that the coating starts flaking off if it’s being constantly cooked on high heat or gets scratched by using metal spoons and spatulas. In case of coating’s flaking issue, you may find bits of black pieces of the coating in your food which you might accidentally ingest. However, consuming flakes doesn’t have a harmful effect as they can pass out of the body without being absorbed.
With that being discussed, we can now move forward to examine another aspect regarding Teflon safety.
Inclusion of Gen-X in Teflon and its Possible Hazards
When the DuPont company, which manufactures Teflon, sensed that PFOA was causing environmental pollution, contaminating drinking water, and cancer, it started to replace the PFOA by introducing a chemical named Gen-X in 2009.
It was considered to be less environmentally persistent than the other chemical PFOA. According to Environmental Health Perspective, it is a “regrettable substitute.” Both PFOA and Gen-X belong to the family of chemicals known as “Forever Chemicals” or PFAS.
These chemicals are named as “Forever Chemicals” because their chemical formulation makes them uncannily resistant to biodegrade naturally. It can seep into drinking waters besides having a filtration system and stay in the body forever.
These are all man-made chemicals that didn’t exist before WWII, and EPA doesn’t regulate all chemicals. EPA has now banned one such chemical (PFOA), but studies are still going on Gen-X chemical, and it’s not banned for now.
Like PFOA, Gen-X traces are also found in the Cape Fear River, and the chemical is contaminating the drinking water.
However, Scientific Research is a continuous and time-taking process. It involves taking a humongous amount of data and analyzing it carefully, and making a decision based on it.
So, in future, we may see “Gen-X” or thousands of other forever chemicals getting banned, but not for now due to lack of sufficient data.
According to cancer.org:
We can’t conclude that exposure to these chemicals is only caused by Teflon-coated pans as there are many ways (for example: water) by which human beings can get exposed to them.
Alternatives of Teflon Non-Stick Pans
If the thought of chemicals scares you and you want to go down the traditional route of cooking, you can use:
- Stainless steel
- Cast Iron
- Enameled cast iron
- Carbon Steel
- Copper Pans
We have tried our best to cover all the aspects of Teflon cookware safety. It is on you to decide what to buy by going through all the above points. We will be updating it if we find any new research about it.