What do you say about having another nonstick pan conversation, specifically about whether or not they’re safe to use?
Well, I know what you’re probably thinking: “Haven’t we been through this already? Aren’t they safe by now? Why does this conversation keep coming up?”
Honestly, I’m with you. It’s about time to settle whether or not nonstick pans are indeed toxic, but for those of you with a kitchen full of nonstick items, there’s some bad news coming. The truth is that proper research shows that all nonstick kitchenware likely hurts more than helps; I know it saves you a few minutes during kitchen cleanup every night, but is that really worth risking your health over? Probably not. In fact, I think you might prefer to protect yourself and your family from perfluorinated alkylate substance (PFAS) exposure. (1, 2, 3)
The History Of Nonstick Kitchenware
Over the last ten years, nonstick cookware has gone through somewhat of a roller coaster ride in terms of progress and fallbacks. It began as Teflon and soon took a place of complete toxicity, utterly unwanted by most households. After a few years of adjustments, however, nonstick cookware finally became widely accepted by the public as “nontoxic” and was purchased in bulk, but this acceptance – it turns out – is wildly misplaced. (1)
Today we understand that Teflon is simply the brand name of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which is a chemical made using surfactant perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, or “C8”). This is the chemical that came under such scrutiny in recent years due to the major health effects it has on people when it’s heated or even ingested. Once the carcinogenic potential of PFOA was noticed, chemical manufactures attempted to provide substitutes in order to keep nonstick pans alive. Dupont introduced GenX in 2009, audaciously claiming that it was a safer substitute for PFOA, and that’s when everyone reinvested in nonstick cookware since it was assumed to be nontoxic. (1, 2)
Why Are Nonstick Pans Bad for You?
The issue with this is that the Environmental Protection Agency has revealed that the GenX replacement chemical is entirely problematic and in no way safe for consumers. All of this nonstick cookware that has been dutifully labeled as “nontoxic” simply due to it being PFOA-free is entirely inaccurate. It turns out this “replacement chemical” is less than ideal. While PFOA has a lot of health risks, GenX is also demonstrating extreme issues. (1, 2)
According to Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist and nontoxic living consultant,
“There was no evidence to support GenX as a safer substitute. It was simply not PFOA, but its structure was quite similar. GenX also falls into the category of PFAS (Or PFC) chemicals. Therefore, it is not shocking that in recent years since GenX came on the market, new research, particularly studies conducted with animals, have suggested that GenX has similar toxic effects as PFOA. So we’d be smart to remove any nonstick cookware made from GenX off our shopping list and get it out of our kitchens too. It should be clear at this point that substituting a known toxic PFAS chemical with a structurally-similar option can’t be trusted as health-protective either. (Sidenote: This alphabet soup of letters can get confusing. Just remember that these abbreviations are a similar class of chemical to avoid: PFOA, PFOS, PFCs, PFAS, C8, etc.).”
The items you use to cook your food often have as great of an impact on your health as the food you cook and eat. The chemicals within a nonstick pan can often be detected within foods cooked, so it’s important to take your cookware seriously. Even if you’re a nonstick pan lover, consider some safer options like cast iron, glass, or stainless steel and just invest in some cooking oils to save you cleaning time later. The amount of health risks that nonstick pans present is high, so isn’t it better to be safe than sorry? (1)