Technical progress is everything. We all love to cook without worries, hassle, and unnecessary actions. From this perspective, the non-stick pan looks like another sophisticated tool created by engineers for people.
Seriously, how many times you got annoyed because the eggs got stuck to a pan just because you left them for a minute later than you should have to? Or when the frying of pancakes is turning into an endless race of trying not to burn them? With the PFOA you will forget about these problems for good and will be enjoying the technologies of the modern world.
However, the progress in one sphere is accompanied by the regress in another. It turns out the PFOA is not that safe for our health. The materials that they are made of can cause serious harm to our well-being. There’s been a lot of concern lately about the coatings of non-stick pans, such as Teflon pans and other non-stick brands.
The problem is PFOA and PTFE, the chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process of non-stick cookware. For those who would like to get more information and be aware of all the damage that the usage of the non-stick pan can bring, there is more information than can be found in this article.
So, what is actually PTFE and why is it so bad?
PTFE stands for “polytetrafluoroethylene”, a fluoropolymer plastic compound that is silicone-based and contains both carbon and fluorine.
Each molecule of the substance will have two carbon atoms and four fluorine atoms when it comes to the chemical breakdown of PTFE – this duo is what makes up that substance that is sprayed on pans to make the surface non-stick.
This element was first discovered by the scientist named Roy Plunkett in 1938. Ten years later, PTFE was branded as Teflon, along with getting well-known all around the world from all those non-stick properties in cookware.
But the cookware is not the only industry where PTFE is used. It’s also used in industrial manufacturing because of its durability and strength. Lots of products that we have today on the market, including electronics, automobiles, and aerospace high-tech products, are made with the usage of this element.
Another harmful element – PFOA – stands for “perfluorooctanoic acid”, which is a man-made synthetic compound that is used not exclusively in the non-stick cookware production but also in making stain-resistant fabrics and kitchen mats as well.
A curious fact to know is that the PFOA element is also used in the process of making PTFE. But their chemical structure is different. There are several concerns about the PFOA element, and there are definitely reasons for that. First of all, this element stays in the human body, as well as in the environment, for significant periods of time.
There have been many studies of the PFOA, to figure out how safe it actually is, and the final results have shown that this chemical element is present in very minute levels in people all around the world. For those people living near water where the water supply has been PFOA contaminated, the levels are even higher.
If even those people who just live nearby the water sources, contaminated with those chemicals, can you imagine those, who actually work at the plants, producing PFOA? Further health studies on it indicate that people who have been exposed to the chemical are more at risk for the following health concerns:
– Thyroid disease
– High cholesterol levels
– Health issues in children and babies
– The bladder, kidney, and testicular cancer
– Liver damage and disease
– Blood pressure concerns
Of course, this is not the full list of diseases that can be caused by PFOA. The full information still continues to be received in the near future years.
So how are we actually affected by PFOA from the cookware?
Well, when the non-stick pans are made, this element is used and the exposure to humans is low. However, the main risk that all the harm is collectible and will be seen through the time.
When we cook with a non-stick pan, logically its surface is getting warmed, which releases all the dangerous toxins and other emissions from the heating of PFOA (the coating contains this material) are vaporizing in the air and then the person cooking breathes them in, or, even worse, they soak into the meal cooked which later is being consumed by all family members.
Luckily, manufacturers have stopped using it in non-stick cookware due to its carcinogenic properties. What is more, there is even more cheerful news. Now the non-stick cookware without containing the PFOA is invented. In fact, in the US and Canada, all cookware that is sold since 2015 is PFOA free.
Let’s move on to another component, PTFE. Unlike PFOA and PTFO, PTFE is not considered to be a health risk, however, there is also no evidence that it is fully harmless for the humans’ health. Numerous attempts of research have been done and it was figured out that that PTFE isn’t toxic and that’s it’s safe for human consumption.
But hold on from using all the cookware that contains this element as well. There is no research completed which would show that PTFE is fully safe when it is stored in the cookware materials.
The first concern with PTFE is that it can break down when it gets too hot. It has a melting point of about 600F but even at lower temperatures of about 450 to 500F, it starts to break down. When it’s getting released, the fumes that it leaves are not that safe to breathe in.
It is especially important to remember about the cooking fumes since they are produced through the high temperatures when any vaporizing or fumes are not recommended to be inhaled. So it’s debatable whether breathing in PTFE fumes is more dangerous than breathing in any other substance.
On the other hand, until all the studies have demonstrated neither its safety nor its harm, it is better to avoid all the non-stick cookware containing PTFE.
Credit: Cooking Top Gear