Monday, February 18, 2008

#175 - Stickin' It to the Man Pan

Giving Up My Non-Stick Pans

I've had this change on my list for a while, but I just finally got around to doing the research on non-stick and I've got one thing to say:

Holy Toxicity, Batman!

According to several online resources - including the Environmental Working Group, CorpWatch, the EPA and (here's the kicker) DuPont - use of non-stick pans has the potential to release toxic fumes, including chemicals that are likely carcinogenic. Not good.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a synthetic chemical that was recently found by the EPA to be a "likely human carcinogen". PFOA is used as a processing aid in the manufacturing process for non-stick pans and is also released as toxic fumes when these pans are heated to temperatures exceeding 660 F. Here's some groovy scientific info I found:

PFOA is a stable, synthetic chemical, which, when produced, lasts 50-60 years. PFOA is both water and oil resistant. It is found in dolphins, trout, polar bears, humans and many other species throughout the world - from the Arctic to the South Pacific. PFOA can cross the placenta, which is why it is even found in the bloodstreams of newborn infants. Some adverse effects of PFOA found in labratory animals studies include hepatotoxicity, carcinogenicity, immunotoxicity, hormone imbalance and developmental toxicity.

The most interesting (and easiest to read) information I found came from an article called "Toxic Teflon", published by the Environmental Working Group, who also released another Teflon article just last week entitled "Chemical Used In Non-Stick Cookware Continues to Prove Its Toxicity"

I could go on and on about the oodles and oodles of information I found, but I think a brief synopsis of the findings might be more helpful:


DuPont's argument (you knew they'd have one, didn't you?) is that the PFOA is not released unless the pan reaches a temperature of around 660F degrees. DuPont stated that this is well-above the scroch point of butter and most cooking oils, so we needn't worry about the toxic fumes since no one would ever scorch butter.

Riiiigggghhhhhht. I don't know about you, but I don't use a fancy egg timer or thermometer to tell me when my food is cooked. I use a smoke detector. That, my friend, is how you know dinner is done.

Not to mention that PFOA is used during the manufacturing process and so, by purchasing new Teflon products, we are encouraging the production of more PFOA. Wonder where that all ends up. Hmmmm..... Well, I doubt the previously mentioned dolphins, trout and polar bears are cooking with Teflon so you draw your own conclusions.

And so, in the name of saving the planet and my own lungs, I hereby say goodbye to my jumbo non-stick frying pan and my non-stick omelette pan. Sianara to my professional style wok. Au revoir to my griddle and so long to the waffle maker I pilfered from my sister's kitchen last year. *sniff* I shall miss you all.


I have my awesome, seasoned cast-iron skillets -- the ORIGINAL non-stick pan whose only side-effect would be anemia relief. And those babies work like a charm!

Now for all of you PFOA experts (and even you novices) I found a lot more information than I bargained for while researching Teflon pans. I found PFOA is found in many everyday items that we have in our homes. Honestly, I've simply run out of time to write it all up. I'll post more on this topic later. But if you just can't wait, a google search of "environmental hazards PFOA" will yield many more results than you would hope for.


Release of toxic chemicals into our waterways and our bodies.

Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

This could be difficult if you didn't get a couple cast-iron skillets for Christmas like I did. But, I gotta tell ya, I picked up a nice 8" cast iron skillet at Goodwill last week for $5. Check your local thrift shop, garage sale, craigslist and freecycle for skillets before you buy new. Odds are you can get a nice set of pans on the cheap. And since these puppies are damn near indestructable, they should serve you for years and years and years to come.

Oh, BTW, if you find a nasty-ass, rusty old cast-iron skillet at a garage sale, buy it! You can easily clean it, season it and use it!


MamaBird said...

Thanks so much for the links + sharing the research. I have been slowly transitioning our teflon out of the house but obviously need to move more quickly.

crabbydad said...

I see your point, but have you ever tried to flip an omelet with a cast-iron skillet? That's a sure fire way to get a hyena.

Wendy said...

Like you, I've been trying to do this one for a while. I have several fantastic cast iron skillets, but it's the sauce pans I'm having trouble replacing. I researched alternatives to teflon coated, and found some really good quality, heavy duty stainless steel and copper pans, but they're really expensive. I found a 1 qt glass pan at Goodwill, but haven't been able to find replacements for all of them, yet.

I haven't figured out how I'm going to solve my teflon dilemma, but my goal is to be free of teflon cookware by the end of the year ;).

leslie said...

Love my cast iron, and stainless steel pots and pans are a great investment.

I laughed out loud about ..."I don't use a fancy egg timer, I use a smoke detector.", and then again at crabbydads getting a hyena from flipping omelettes.
I love this blog!

organicneedle said...

We made the switch to all stainless a few years back when we started having kids and became more sensitive to reports about toxicity. It wasn't cheap, but way worth the investment. They cook like a dream, ARE easy to maintain as nonstick, and, well, if I may be a little superficial, they look amazing all shiny on the stove :).

On a related note, does anyone know anything about those new flexy baking pans. My aunt bought me a huge set of them, but I am a little hesitant to cook in them and can't find any info on them. Something about baking in a synthetic seems a little bit weird.

Mistress Mae said...

I know its a little off topic, but today's blog reminded me to go do some research and see if Yankee Candles contain Phthalates--they do! At least according to this website:

I figured I'd share the knowledge, isn't that what bloggers do?

Mistress Mae said...

Oh! I didn't read that last comment first, sorry! Silicone is actually pretty cool. It's made from sand and oxygen (as opposed to oil) and it does, in fact, biodegrade! One article actaully talked about a study where they tested to see if plants and worms could absorb or uptake the silicone from the soil and they couldn't.

The only iffy thing about the stuff is the additives. I'm not sure how to go about looking up what defines "pure" silicone, but if they make it without the dyes, without any plasticizers, without any material-preserving-chemical-whatsits it could actually be a great alternative to plastic!

daharja said...

I've tagged you for an Archive Meme. (I'm probably not the only person to do so, but oh well...)

The rules to the meme are available here at my own Archive Meme.

Thanks for a new addition to my blogroll. I'm enjoying reading your blog a lot!

Green Bean said...

Yikes! That's scary stuff. I gave up most of my Teflon a while ago but I do still have my waffle maker and wok. I may need to give up those as well. I actually switched to stainless steel and just use oil. So far so good. I'll keep my eyes open for cast iron at the thrift shop though. What a score!

Anonymous said...

We use all stainless steel pots and pans that I bought at Goodwill. And they don't stick because we use hella olive oil around here, as you know. (Hella, that's Oakland-speak for a whole, whole lot.)

I have to admit I just can't get the hang of cast iron. They rust if they get wet and then you have to do the whole seasoning thing and really they're supposed to be best with all kinds of burnt-on crud left on them or something. I'm surprised you of all people can stand the idea of it.

Anyway, my brother loves cast iron, as do most folks I talk to, so I think it's my problem and I just have to learn to live with it.

Burbanmom said...

Yeah, Beth, I think growing up with the cast iron gave me some sort of "baked-on-crud" immunity. That, and the fact that I scrub them hella. (proper use?)


leslie said...

Cast iron routine in my house:

HOT water and a copper scrubber, no soap, while the pan is still warm from cooking. Removes 'crud'.
Dry the pan.
Dab on one tiny, not hella, drop of oil, and smear around with paper towel (Yes, folks, but only a small piece of one)

Ready for next epicurian delight.

Recipes with tomatoes tend to remove the seasoning if you leave the food in the pan for very long.

Anonymous said...

"That, and the fact that I scrub them hella."

Omigod, I'm choking on my muffin. That's too funny. You must never say it again!

Here's a Wikipedia explanation of the term:

According to Wiki, you have to follow "hella" with an adjective, as in "It was hella good!" I usually do that (and then wonder if a 43-year old woman really ought to be speaking this way), but in this case I followed it with a noun (olive oil), which I think is fine because other people around here do it too. But you can't just leave it hanging at the end of a sentence unless you're trying to start a new trend.

Burbanmom said...

OH! NOW I get it! So, I'm "hella dorktastic" for not using it right and Beth has "hella free time" to allow her to actually look it up on Wikipedia ;-)

Now is that better?

Anonymous said...

Couldn't have said it better myself!

Anonymous said...

Holy crap, Batman! I just read that PFOAs are in french fry and pizza boxes. Not that I EVER, EVER buy that kind of food anymore EVER. But if I did, I'd totally be exposed to it. Here's the article from Enviroblog: