Fact or Myth: Are Non-Stick Pans Toxic?

This is a FACT.

Non-stick pans offer an ease and convenience that other cookware just can’t top—easy to clean, no elbow grease involved. But this convenience comes with a hefty price on your health. Non-stick cookware and bakeware are coated with toxic chemicals, and even the companies who make these products admit they’re hazardous to your health. Let’s break down just what makes non-stick pans toxic.

Teflon frying pan isolated on white backgroundNon-Stick Pans Cash In on Chemicals

Your non-stick pans don’t stick because they are coated with poly and perfluoroalkyl substances. When heated, these fluorinated chemicals are converted to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is a chemical that has been tied to health conditions such as infertility, thyroid disease, and organ damage.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR):

“Once in your body, perfluoroalkyls tend to remain unchanged for long periods of time. The most commonly used perfluoroalkyls (PFOA and PFOS) stay in the body for many years. It takes approximately four years for the level in the body to go down by half, even if no more is taken in.”

Non-stick cookware is also made of PFCs, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled “likely carcinogens.”

The EPA Takes Action

In 2006, the EPA responded to these dangers by issuing a voluntary 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program. Companies responded by agreeing to decrease the use of PFOA and other toxic chemicals by 95% by 2010 and entirely by 2015. However, they’ve simply replaced these chemicals with other, equally dangerous substitutes—a group of PFAS that are short-chain rather than long-chain and thought to be a little less dangerous.

University of California chemist and the executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, Arlene Bloom says:

“We know these substitutes are equally persistent. They don’t break down for geologic time… It’s a very serious decision to make chemicals that last that long, and putting them into consumer products with high levels of human exposure is a worrisome thing.”

A Danish study published April 2015 in PLOS ONE demonstrated that PFAS, including the short-chain substitutes used in non-stick cookware, increased the risk of miscarriage 16-fold in women.

Add in the Heat

Studies commissioned by the Environmental Working Group show that it takes as little as 2 minutes for non-stick pans to release toxic fumes into the environment when heated on conventional stovetops. Heat causes the coating to break down at temperatures of 464-degrees Fahrenheit, and by 680-degrees Fahrenheit releases up to 6 toxic gasses, including PFOA and TFE, known carcinogens! When heated, non-stick pans also release MFA, a chemical warfare agent.

In fact, studies commissioned by Dupont, a leading manufacturer of non-stick pans, showed that when heated their non-stick cookware released 15 types of toxic gasses and particles. EWG’s 2003 report, “Canaries in the Kitchen: DuPont Has Known for 50 Years,” claims:

“DuPont acknowledges that the fumes can also sicken people, a condition called ‘polymer fume fever.’ DuPont has never studied the incidence of the fever among users of the billions of non-stick pots and pans sold around the world. Neither has the company studied the long-term effects from the sickness, or the extent to which exposures lead to human illnesses believed erroneously to be the common flu.”

So…who’s ready to trade in the non-stick pans for some stickier, but safer cookware?