Feb 15

REVIEW Non-Stick Cookware and Your Health

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There seems to be growing evidence that non-stick cookware may not be good for you and your children.  One chemical used to make non-stick cookware, perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts (PFOA), has been determined a ‘likely carcinogen’ – that is, it is likely to cause cancer.  Other research shows that it may also raise bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) levels in children.

What is non-stick cookware?

In short, non-stick cookware is designed to repel stickiness.  PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts) is a surfactant in the emulsion polymerization of PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) – the main ingredient in your non-stick cookware.  In essence, PFOA makes PTFE usable as a non-stick coating.  DuPont makes Teflon (one of the best-known non-stick coatings).  Almost all cookware companies have non-stick versions of their products .  The same chemicals that are used to make non-stick cookware are also used in making  microwave popcorn bags and stain- and water-repellent fabrics.

The Health Effects of PFOA?

Now, I don’t want to get sued here, so I will rely on what other organizations have said about PFOA.  The list of potential adverse health effects is rather substantial.  Let’s take a look:


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted a draft risk assessment for formal peer review by the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) in 2005.  The SAB reviewed the information that was available at the time, and suggested that the PFOA cancer data are consistent with the EPA guidelines descriptor “likely to be carcinogenic to humans”.

Health Canada had this to say:

“An independent science review panel in the US has recommended that perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts (PFOA) be considered “likely to be carcinogenic” based on laboratory studies in rats. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also determined that PFOA is ‘likely’ to cause cancer in rats. However, this does not necessarily mean that PFOA causes cancer in humans. PFOA is widely used in the manufacture of non-stick coatings.” Health Canada

Health Canada also went on to add:

“PFOA does not remain in cookware or other products after manufacture, but it has spread throughout the natural environment worldwide. In 2006, the chemical industry voluntarily agreed to a U.S. EPA plan to reduce and eventually eliminate the release of PFOA into the environment and to reduce and eliminate any PFOA content in products. There is no risk of exposure to PFOA from using cooking utensils and equipment with non-stick coatings.

Nonstick coatings are a risk [emphasis added] if they are heated to temperatures greater than 350°C or 650°F. This might happen if an empty pan is left on a burner. In this case, the coatings can give off irritating or poisonous fumes.”

So, PFOA is a likely carcinogen to humans and it is spread throughout the environment during the manufacture of non-stick coatings.  It also can release poisonous fumes if it is heated at a high temperature.  I’ll give non-stick cookware a pass.  It includes a likely carcinogen in its manufacture, releases this stuff into the environment, and I am supposed to have faith that it is safe for me (and my daughter) as long as I don’t turn up the heat too high.  I’ll err on the side of caution and exercise the precautionary principle here.

Raising Bad Cholesterol Levels 

CTV News has reported:

“The chemicals that are used to make non-stick cookware, microwave popcorn bags and stain- and water-repellent fabric may also raise cholesterol levels in children, a new study suggests.”  Read the article HERE.

Eeek!  Now even microwave popcorn and Gore-Tex are a concern.

Rendering Vaccines Ineffective

The Daily Mail (UK) has also highlighted a study that suggests that non-stick coatings may render vaccines ineffective:

” If a vaccine is not able to provide necessary protection to your child, some chemicals used in non-stick cookware may have to blame.

Besides non-stick cookware, this group of harmful chemicals – Perfluorinated compounds – are widely used in waterproof clothing and fast food packaging.

A study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health, has found that these chemicals may lower protective response generated by vaccines in kids.”  Read the article HERE


The Lodge Logic Cast Iron Skillet

So, there may be some evidence that non-stick cookware, microwave popcorn bags, and water-repellant clothing may cause cancer, may raise bad cholesterol levels in children, and render vaccines ineffective.  It seems that this list seems to be growing since the first non-stick coatings were introduced in the 50’s.  Who can tell of all the as-of-yet unknown effects on humans and the environment?  I have removed most non-stick coatings from my home and will never prepare anything for my daughter in anything with a non-stick surface.  Common sense tells me that this is common sense.  In many cases, and in all cases regarding my young one, the precautionary principle rules.  I would rather do without non-stick and remove myself and my daughter from that potential danger, that use it and potentially be sick because I find it ‘convenient’.

Safer Alternatives?

YES!  There are many.   I’ve gone old school with stainless steel pots, and cast iron roasters, Dutch ovens, and skillets.  Cast iron is heavy and wonderful.  I was a bit hesitant at first about using cast iron because it just seemed that everything would stick to it.  I have found, however, that it actually works as good, or even better that non-stick cookware with its non-stickiness.  The more you use it, the better it gets.  You just have to remember to never let it sit in water and that you always wipe it out after each use and coat it with some type of oil afterwards (I use mostly olive oil).  It works like a charm with eggs, omelets, pancakes and everything else I have ever used in it.  I love it more and more as time goes by and feel assured and confident that it is safe.

Read More Reviews HERE!

Here is a Top Rated cast iron skillet for you to consider:

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Author: Jason Milburn Google

Frugal dad – focusing my money and energy towards happiness and the things that matter most since around 1985.

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