The non-sense of nonstick! It's time to switch out your nonstick for non toxic.
Serving up a healthy meal doesn’t always start and end with the produce we source. We may be spending a lot of time, energy (and money) seeking out fresh and local ingredients to feed our families something nutritious, but so often we amiss the importance of chemical-free pots, pans and cooking utensils.
Nonstick cookware became a household name in the 1960s with fuss free cooking and cleaning results! These nonstick frying- and saucepans, are coated with a material called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon.[i]
But over the past decade, non-stick cookware started making headlines for health associated risks due to the build-up of these chemicals in our bodies. [ii] These chemicals have been linked to infertility and low birth rates as well as thyroid disorders, kidney and liver diseases, immune system dysfunction and even cancers.[iii]
So what’s in the coating you ask?
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) was an accidental discovery made in 1938 during a refrigeration experiment. The slippery substance was successfully used in military and industrial applications during World War II and then made its way into our kitchens in the 60s, transforming the way meals were cooked at home under the name Teflon!
Teflon is a synthetic chemical made up of carbon and fluorine atoms. It may be heat-resistant, but when applied to high temperatures, Teflon leaches chemicals into our food and off-gasses called perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOAs. The production of nonstick cookware is also extremely toxic to our waterways.
In 2013, these PFOAs found in Teflon were banned and exiled from the market not only due to their link to serious health concerns, but also their decades-long persistence in the environment affecting both wildlife and other natural forms.
So what are newer forms of nonstick cookware made from?
Sadly, the replacement chemicals used in nonstick cookware pose similar health and environmental risks.
“In response to public pressure due to growing concerns about the health effects of PFOA and PFOS, industry voluntarily phased them out but unfortunately replaced them with alternative, often shorter chain versions of PFAS chemicals such as GenX and PFBS. Because short-chain PFAS are thought to be eliminated from our bodies faster than legacy PFAS, it was argued that they were safe. But the more these alternative PFAS chemicals are studied, the more evident it becomes that this is not the case.” - The Natural Resource Defence Council -
So if your mom or grandmother has an “old favourite” nonstick pan in her kitchen, it probably has PFOA in the coating. Regrettably, the new non-stick options found in all stores today are most likely coated with similar replacements chemicals.
What about “safe” nonstick cookware?
From my research – there is no safe alternative for a non-stick anything. You may come across some very persuasive marketing terms like green-clean- and even "PTFE-free", "PFOA-free", and "made without PFOA” on cookware labels, but there will be very little evidence to support these punchlines. These claims are purely stating that the previously banned chemicals have been replaced …. (but with what?)
What to do with your old and scratched nonstick pans?
It’s time to hand them over as an accessory to your children’s mud kitchen or turn them into art ;-). Alternatively, you could put them into your recycling bin in the hopes that your municipality is able to extract the reusable materials, however, the chemicals won’t degrade.
When replacing your pots and pans, opt for these affordable and durable cookware classics that have been serving up healthy meals for generations:
For detailed brands check out Organic Authority.
Share with a friend and leave comments, questions, suggestions or thoughts! I would love to hear from you.
sources: [i] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nonstick-cookware-safety#what-it-is [ii] https://www.nrdc.org/experts/anna-reade/epa-finds-replacements-toxic-teflon-chemicals-are-also [iii] https://www.wired.com/2011/04/0406plunkett-discovers-teflon/