Fluoride Action Network

Danger in the skillet zone

Source: Eating Well | October 1st, 2003 | By Karen Ansel

Saute in a nonstick skillet. For decades, it’s been the mantra of low-fat cooking. But what if that skillet you’ve been using turns out to be worse for you health that the fat you so desperately want to avoid? the watchdog Environmental Working Group (EWG) hopes to find out. the have petitioned the Consumers Product Safety Commission to test nonstick cookware and to warn consumers of potential risks.

Leave a hot nonstick pan on the stove for a moment too long and that slippery coating just might start to break down, emitting toxic fumes. Kristina Thayer, a senior scientist a EWG, warns that pan fumes have been known to kill pet birds. “Who hasn’t boiled a pan dry a couple of times?” Thayer asks, “If you’re using Teflon, that’s a real concern.”

There are other concerns. it appears that perfluorooctanoate, or PFOA, a processing aid in the manufacture of all nonstick cookware. maybe a potential health hazard; the EPA has lunched an investigation on its darker side.

PFOA is an unregulated compound used to construct a host of consumer goods besides nonstick cookware, including personal-care products and stain-resistant carpets. For years, this member of the flurochemical family was produced domestically by both 3M and DuPont. But recently 3M bowed out due to concerns regarding the discovery of the chemical in the serum of workers exposed to it regularly. Not only has PFOA been linked to the development of cancer in laboratory animals, it has also been associated with hormonal alterations, thyroid damage and diminished immune function. What’s more, once it gets into the body, it stays there– for years.

Now, after more than 50 years of use, PFOA is surfacing in places that were never expected, form the environment to the blood of most Americans– and nobody is sure exactly why. That, says the EPA is a problem, promoting a full-blown investigation to determine if this chemical should be subject to governmental regulation.

Despite the potential health hazards, DuPont does not appear to share 3M’s concerns. In fact, the Wilminington, Delaware, giant continues to employ PFOA in the manufacture of its trademark nonstick Teflon cookware. “Using FDA-approved methodologies PFOA has not been detected in the cookware made with DuPont nonstick coatings,” says Kathleen Forte, vice president of global affairs for DuPont. “The FDA has found that DuPont nonstick coatings for cookware are acceptable for conventional use”– cooking temperatures below 500 degrees.

EWG believes that the overall concern is significant enough to warrant mandatory warning labels on nonstick cookware. Does his mean that the time has come to retire your Teflon? Says Thayer, “I won’t buy nonstick anymore.”