Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

pfoa in nonstick pans

Think your non-stick pan is saving you time and making for an easy cleanup?

Possibly, but there’s something else it’s doing that you may not know about: leaching toxic substances like trifluoroacetate (TFA) and perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) into your foods and the air you breathe.

These chemicals, collectively called perflourinated compounds, are xenoestrogens (act like estrogen) and have been linked with cancer, endocrine issues, “polymer fume fever” and other health problems in humans.

In animal studies, at least one perflourinated compound was found to be fatal to rats, and fumes from Teflon coatings are fatal to birds.

In 2006, the EPA turned up the heat on eight companies producing or using PFOA calling for a 95% reduction of PFOA in products and plant emissions by 2010 and total elimination of PFOA by 2015.

And that’s a really good thing because PFOA was detected in close to 98% of the population and in 100% of newborn babies.

Is PFOA Safe?

Yet still, even with the evidence that these toxic chemicals are invading our bodies, the makers of non-stick coatings contend that “proper use” of non-stick cookware (i.e. cooking at lower temperatures, not heating the pan without food or liquid, using nonmetal tools, etc.) poses no threat of PFOA contamination.

Not true.

A recent study conducted by Cooks Illustrated proved them wrong. Comparing two varieties of non-stick pans (a cheap pan and a good-quality All-Clad pan), the study prepared three recipes in each pan – skillet roasted potatoes, chicken stir fry and a frittata.

Using an infrared thermometer gun to measure temperatures, the testers found that it was very easy for both pans to get hotter than 500 degrees. In fact, on high heat, it took three minutes for the cheap pan, and five minutes for the All-Clad, to pass 500 degrees. The testers also found that a gas stove was more likely to overheat the pan than an electric stove.

The contents of the pan also made a difference. Testers found no excess heat in pans cooking frittatas or skillet potatoes because the pan’s surface tended to be covered with food the whole time. However, during cooking of the chicken stir fry, both pans got higher than 600 degrees in the bare spots, although only for a second or so as ingredients were moved around the pan.

In addition to the most popular non-stick coating – Teflon – also watch out for Silverstone, Fluron, Supra, Excalibur, Greblon, Xylon, Duracote, Resistal, Autograph and T-Fal.

Avoid PFOA – A Powerful Carcinogen and Endocrine Disruptor

PFOA is a toxicant and carcinogen in animals. In parts per per billion it has been linked to infertility. The dose does NOT make the poison.

In people with higher exposures, PFOA has been linked to birth defects, increased cancer rates, changes to lipid levels, immune and liver dysfunction.

We believe there is NO safe level of exposure to PFOA. We encourage you to toss all of your non-stick cookware and choose safe, inert options like ceramic-coated cast iron, cast iron, glass and stainless steel for cooking and baking.

Its important to note that PFOAs are also found in the liners of microwave popcorn bags (Healing Gourmet does not endorse microwaving) and “roasting” bags.

Emmett EA, Shofer FS, Zhang H, Freeman D, Desai C, Shaw LM (August 2006). "Community exposure to perfluorooctanoate: relationships between serum concentrations and exposure sources". J Occup Environ Med. 48 (8): 759–70. doi:10.1097/01.jom.0000232486.07658.74. PMID 16902368.

About The Author

Kelley Herring, founder of Healing Gourmet, is a natural nutrition enthusiast with a background in biochemistry. Her passion is educating on how foods promote health and protect against disease and creating simple and delicious recipes for vibrant health and enjoyment.

Kelley Herring – who has written posts on Healing Gourmet.

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