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« Why I'm Happy I Evolved | Main | A Good Friend »

Toxic Teflon - Nonstick Will Make You Sick

I've been following the story on DuPont and the findings that the chemical used to make Teflon (C8) is causing all sorts of health problems, is found in the bloodstream of pretty much everyone in the US, including in the umbilical cord blood of unborn babies, has been shown to be toxic in animal studies, and has a half-life of thousands of years. 3M phased out production of C8 in 2000. DuPont recently paid a record multi-million dollar settlement on this issue, but it's still not appearing in the media,and their Teflon-coated items are still in stores.

I've been following the story in bits and pieces as it's come out, and I've been exclusively using my cast iron and ceramic-coated pans ever since.

NPR had a big story on this yesterday, and so I've decided to get rid of ALL my Teflon non-stick cookware once and for all. I don't even want it in my house.

I don't eat microwave popcorn, or fast food (it's in lots of processed food packaging), I only own one pair of stain-resistant pants, and our house is fairly carpet-free (except for the master bedroom), so hopefully our exposure is minimal now. But I cooked daily on Teflon-coated pans for YEARS. I did definitely notice noxious odors coming off them when cooking at high temperatures.

Apparently thousands of pet birds have been killed by those same Teflon off-gases after being exposed to them through hot cooking pans, or carpet installation, or Scotchgarding (aka fabric "Teflon-izing") applications. They are more sensitive to the toxic by-products than we are, but it's a literal "canary in the coal mine" situation.

I was feeling conflicted about throwing so much cookware in the trash, so I sent out a Freecycle email stating the health risks and offering it to anyone who didn't care. I got tons of responses! Some were from people who just said, "I don't care, I need cookware." Which is frankly sad. Others said that they lived alone, and so at least they would be the only ones exposed...or that they were already smokers, so Teflon exposure couldn't be any worse than that. One guy wrote that he had no pans at home to cook with, so if he could cook his own food it would be healthier than eating fast-food all the time, and that had to be a health benefit that would offset Teflon exposure. Can't really argue with that, but dude...how about investing in some cheap second-hand NON-Teflon pans at the Goodwill or something?

A few people thanked me for the info and vowed to get rid of their Teflon-coated pans too. But overwhelmingly, people just wanted to take my toxic pans and use them. I don't know how I feel about that. Maybe they'd just be better off in a landfill. Gah.

I've been surprised by my cast-iron pans. I've had two of them for ages, a small frying pan and a large one. Now that I use them almost daily, they've become properly seasoned, and they are incredibly easy to clean. They are more non-stick than my Teflon pans ever were. I really love them. As long as I remember to spray a little oil on them after cleaning and wipe with a paper towel, they stay perfectly seasoned. They'll last forever too. Half my Teflon pans are scratched up (nice to know we've been EATING that scratched-off Teflon this whole time) and the handles are coming off already...in most cases I've had those pans for only about five years) Cast iron, on the other hand, will last for a hundred years if properly cared for.

My mom bought me some nice stainless-steel Farberware pans a long time ago (thanks Mom!), and those are still in perfect condition as well. They aren't very non-stick, but they last and last and don't react with anything. My grandmother still has her All-Clad stainless-steel pans from a zillion years ago. Perfect condition. So again, the lesson is...buy something that will last, even if it's more expensive up front. You will always save money, time and resources in the long run. Buy one good cast-iron or enameled pan instead of five cheap aluminum pans.

I got a set of Le Creuset enameled cast-iron cookware off eBay a long time ago and it's still in perfect condition. It's normally PAINFULLY expensive, but there's a Canadian store named Caplan-Duval that sells Le Creuset online at bargain prices. That was where I got mine, through one of their eBay auctions. I got a 5-piece set (including two large kettles, two medium saucepans and a frying pan) for the same price as the regular cost of one large Dutch Oven.

Anyway, there are plenty of good alternatives. If you have non-stick cookware, get rid of it. If you eat processed food that is meant to be microwaved in the package, don't. If you have stain-resistant khakis, get rid of them. I can't tell you to lose your carpets, that's not so easy. But if you have the choice between carpet and wood or laminate floors, go for the bare floors and use throw rugs. Think before you apply ANY chemical to your environment that hasn't been around in constant use for hundreds of years. Salt is good. Baking soda is good. Vinegar works great. Perfluorinated compounds? Parabens? Think twice.

Oh sweet, I also just read that heated Teflon gas by-products may also be as destructive to the ozone layer as CFCs. Nice.

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