A few weeks ago I was cooking some scrambled eggs when I noticed that our non-stick pans had scratches on them. I remembered reading some articles a while back about how the coating on non-stick pans contains harmful chemicals. The idea of buying and cooking organic foods only to potentially poison them with yet more chemicals really irritated me.
So, I decided to put those pans aside and learn how to cook with the stainless steel pans we were given for a wedding gift five years ago.
But I also wanted to know more about what non-stick pans are made of, and whether they are unsafe. Turns out polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFEs) are found in non-stick cooking products and they degrade at temperatures above 500 degrees. When we use pots and pans at high temperatures they emit gas, releasing harmful chemicals into the air and into our food. PTFE fumes have killed hundreds of domestic birds and cause flu-like symptoms in humans. Non-stick pans also contain perfluorooctanoic acids (PFOAs) which are supposedly not unhealthy for us, but are unhealthy for the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of eliminating PFOAs in consumer products by 2015.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to cook my food in a product that creates gases toxic enough to kill the family bird. And surprisingly enough, the same chemical used in nonstick cookware is also used in the linings of nonstick packaging, like for microwave popcorn and some fast-food containers.
The EWG provides the following tips regarding your every-day exposure to PFOAs:
You can avoid any exposure to these chemicals by following these tips:
- Never preheat your nonstick cookware on high. Empty pans can reach high temperatures very quickly. Stick to as low a temperature as possible to safely cook the food.
- Don’t put nonstick cookware in an oven over 500 degrees.
- Run an exhaust fan over the stove while using nonstick cookware.
- Never cook on Teflon or other nonstick cookware with a pet bird in the kitchen. The fumes from an overheated pan can kill a bird in seconds.
- Opt for cookware that is made from safer materials like cast iron.
- Reduce your consumption of microwave popcorn and fast foods.
To reduce your exposure to the chemicals in plastic, use these strategies:
- Use a paper towel instead of plastic wrap in the microwave.
- Don’t microwave food in plastic containers (put food on a plate instead).
- Use safer dishware made from materials like glass or stainless steel.
- Avoid use of plastic containers with the number 3 or 7 on them. Plastics with the number 1 (typically used for water and soda bottles) are single use only. Recycle after use.
- Use tempered glass baby bottles instead of plastic. If you use plastic bottles, don’t heat them.
- Store food in glass or Pyrex containers, rather than plastic. (See 10 Ways to “eco-makeover” Your Kitchen)
- Discard scratched or worn plastic containers.
- Hand wash plastics to reduce wear and tear.
We have been researching how to properly recycle ‘unusable’ pots and pans, and hope to post an article over the next few days with several options.
- What type of cookware do you use?
- What do you like/dislike about yours?
10 Ways to “eco-Makeover” Your Kitchen