Toxic non-stick coatings are made up of perfluorochemicals (PFCs). PFCs can be found in pots, pans, cosmetics, paper food wrappers such as microwave popcorn bags and butter boxes, wrappers for greasy packaged and fast foods, paper plates, Gore-Tex, Scotchgard, Stainmaster, and other stain treatments and water repellents used on furniture, carpet and clothing.
Most of you have probably heard about Teflon and the concerns associated with its use. Teflon is just one type of non-stick coating made from the chemical polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which is a type of PFC. Even if something says it isn’t made out of Teflon, you want to make sure it isn’t coated with PTFE.
One toxic chemical used to manufacture PTFE is perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA). This chemical is found in the blood of almost every American. Researchers at Johns Hopkins found PFOA in the umbilical cord blood of 99% of 200 babies born at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2004. PFOAs are also found in our drinking water and throughout the world.
PFOA and other PFCs have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and a whole host of other harmful health effects. Although small doses of it are seemingly harmless, PFOA can linger in your body for decades and build up over time. Companies that use PFOA have agreed to phase it out by 2015 but the chemicals replacing it may not be any safer. A related chemical, PFOS, was found to be fatal to rats. Scotchgard stopped using PFOS in 2000 because the EPA linked it to birth defects in laboratory studies.
Several years ago, there was a lot of fuss about Teflon killing birds. It seems that when non-stick coatings overheat, they degrade and release six different toxic gases, two of which are carcinogenic. And theses fumes are fatal to birds. Overheated non-stick pans also release the greenhouse gas chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are an air pollutant that breaks down the ozone layer.
Furthermore, when PTFE is heated to really high temperatures (between 680 and 930 degrees Fahrenheit), it releases another chemical called trifluoroacetate (TFA), which can kill plants.
For more information on how to avoid PTFE and for some great alternatives, visit our Blog (Sticking it to Non-Stick).
For more information about the risks associated with Teflon and non-stick coatings: