It’s difficult to avoid nonstick cookware these days, but it may not be the best choice for a healthy home. While these coatings allow considerable ease in cleaning and reduce the need for oil in cooking, they have potentially serious drawbacks.
We do not strictly control Google ad content. If you believe any Google ad is inappropriate, please email us directly here.
Most are made from synthetically derived chemicals. When they leach into the food we eat, or into the air we breathe, they may cause serious health consequences, especially at high temperatures and with long-term use. However, Consumer Reports tested nonstick cookware and the results were somewhat reassuring (see sidebar).
Teflon®, one of the earliest and most well-known nonstick coatings, is a type of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) trademarked by DuPont. Early Teflon formulas, found in cookware sold in the 1960s and 1970s, proved to easily scratch and peel. Since then, manufacturers have developed other forms of more durable nonstick coatings. But, no matter what the formula, with time and normal wear and tear minute particles of these coatings flake off and can be present, uninvited, in food.
In addition, there’s the possibility that some synthetic coatings sublimate (change from a solid state to a gaseous state) at extremely high temperatures. Once in the air, these synthetic compounds are easily inhaled. Toxic emissions from no-stick pans have been linked to pet bird deaths, and are probably unhealthy for other pets or for humans, especially if someone has asthma or other breathing problems.
Another problem with nonstick cookware concerns perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a chemical used to bond the nonstick coating to the pan. Just two to five minutes on the stovetop may be enough for PFOA to leach. Studies have shown the chemical to be present at low levels in the bloodstream of nine out of ten Americans, and in the blood of most newborns (though we do not understand the significance of this). Scientific studies link PFOA to birth defects and possibly to raised levels of cholesterol. Scientific advisors to the EPA have called it a likely carcinogen. In early 2006 the EPA asked eight American companies, including DuPont, to work towards the elimination of PFOA by 2015.
So what’s the best choice for cookware? Not unlined copper, a soft metal which can leach into food causing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. And not aluminum, a heavy metal which can be absorbed by food, then ingested. Research in the 1980s found a possible relationship between aluminum deposits found in the brain and Alzheimer’s disease, though that research has become controversial. The role (if any) of aluminum has yet to be fully understood. To be on the safe side consider other alternatives, such as cast iron, tin-lined copper, porcelain-on-steel, enameled-steel, stainless steel, ceramic, and thick glass cookware that can withstand high temperatures. Stainless-steel-lined aluminum cookware is acceptable because the stainless-steel layer forms an impenetrable protective barrier between the food and the aluminum.
(Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The Healthy House Institute, LLC.)
The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on HealthyHouseInstitute.com as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.
While an effort is made to ensure the quality of the content and credibility of sources listed on this site, HHI provides no warranty - expressed or implied - and assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed on or in conjunction with the site. The views and opinions of the authors or originators expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of HHI: its principals, executives, Board members, advisors or affiliates.