Nutrition and Prevention

Why I Stopped Using Teflon Pans


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In two to five minutes on a conventional stove-top, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year, according to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG).

In new tests conducted by a university food safety professor, a generic non-stick frying pan preheated on a conventional, electric stove-top burner reached 736°F in three minutes and 20 seconds, with temperatures still rising when the tests were terminated. A Teflon pan reached 721°F in just five minutes under the same test conditions (See Figure 1), as measured by a commercially available infrared thermometer. DuPont studies show that the Teflon offgases toxic particulates at 446°F. At 680°F Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses. At temperatures that DuPont scientists claim are reached on stove-top drip pans (1000°F), non-stick coatings break down to a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB, and a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas phosgene.

For the past fifty years DuPont has claimed that their Teflon coatings do not emit hazardous chemicals through normal use. In a recent press release, DuPont wrote that “significant decomposition of the coating will occur only when temperatures exceed about 660 degrees F (340 degrees C). These temperatures alone are well above the normal cooking range.” These new tests show that cookware exceeds these temperatures and turns toxic through the common act of preheating a pan, on a burner set on high. In cases of “Teflon toxicosis,” as the bird poisonings are called, the lungs of exposed birds hemorrhage and fill with fluid, leading to suffocation. 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 Teflon exposures lead to human illnesses believed erroneously to be the common flu.

The government has not assessed the safety of non-stick cookware. According to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety scientist: “You won’t find a regulation anywhere on the books that specifically addresses cookwares,” although the FDA approved Teflon for contact with food in 1960 based on a food frying study that found higher levels of Teflon chemicals in hamburger cooked on heat-aged and old pans. At the time, FDA judged these levels to be of little health significance. Of the 6.9 million bird-owning households in the US that claim an estimated 19 million pet birds, many don’t know know that Teflon poses an acute hazard to birds. Most non-stick cookware carries no warning label. DuPont publicly acknowledges that Teflon can kill birds, but the company-produced public service brochure on bird safety discusses the hazards of ceiling fans, mirrors, toilets, and cats before mentioning the dangers of Teflon fumes. As a result of the new data showing that non-stick surfaces reach toxic temperatures in a matter of minutes, EWG has petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to require that cookware and heated appliances bearing non-stick coatings must carry a label warning of the acute hazard the coating poses to pet birds. Additionally, we recommend that bird owners completely avoid cookware and heated appliances with non-stick coatings. Alternative cookware includes stainless steel and cast iron, neither of which offgases persistent pollutants that kill birds.

Teflon kills birds

Avian veterinarians have known for decades that Teflon-coated and other non-stick cookware can produce fumes that are highly toxic to birds. As early as 1986, a Chicago-area expert on Teflon toxicosis called the phenomenon a leading cause of death among birds, and estimated that hundreds of birds are killed by the fumes and particles emitted from Teflon-coated products each year. Although an accurate national accounting of deaths is not available, in a single year this Chicago veterinarian documented 296 bird deaths in 105 cases involving non-stick cookware.

Under ordinary cooking scenarios, Teflon kills birds. A review of the literature and bird owners’ accounts of personal experience with Teflon toxicosis shows that Teflon can be lethal at normal cooking temperatures, with no human lapses in judgment or wakefulness.

Bird deaths have been documented during or immediately after the following normal cooking scenarios:

New Teflon-lined Amana oven was used to bake biscuits at 325°F; all the owner’s baby parrots died. Four stovetop burners, underlined with Teflon-coated drip pans, were preheated in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner; 14 birds died within 15 minutes. Nonstick cookie sheet was placed under oven broiler to catch the drippings; 107 chicks died. Self-cleaning feature on the oven was used; a $2,000 bird died. Set of Teflon pans, including egg poaching pan, were attributed to seven bird deaths over seven years. Water burned off a hot pan; more than 55 birds died.

Electric skillet at 300°F and space heater were used simultaneously; pet bird died. Toaster oven with a non-stick coating was used to prepare food at a normal temperature; bird survived but suffered respiratory distress. Water being heated for hot cocoa boiled off completely; pet bird died. Grill plate on gas stove used to prepare food at normal temperatures; two birds died on two separate occasions.

DuPont claims that its coating remains intact indefinitely at 500°F. Experiences of consumers whose birds have died from fumes generated at lower temperatures show that this is not the case. In one case researchers at the University of Missouri documented the death of about 1,000 broiler chicks exposed to offgas products from coated heat lamps at 396°F.

DuPont also claims that human illness will be produced only in cases involved gross overheating, or burning the food to an inedible state. Yet DuPont’s own scientists have concluded that polymer fume fever in humans is possible at 662°F, a temperature easily exceeded when a pan is preheated on a burner or placed beneath a broiler, or in a self-cleaning oven.

Beware Dangers in Teflon and Non-Stick Cookware

Thursday, July 23, 2009 by: Natalie June, citizen journalist
Learn more:

(NaturalNews) It seems today that everyone is trying to market their product as “green”. Consumers need to be aware, though, that just because their merchandise is labeled as “green” or “good for the environment,” it does not mean that it actually is. A perfect example of this can be found in the cookware aisle. A pan that has a bamboo handle is made from some recycled materials and can be recycled after use, but it should not claim to be a “green” pan, especially when that pan is coated with a substance like Teflon. Not only can Teflon-coated and other non-stick cookware produce fumes that are highly toxic to birds, but it is clear that these products are also unhealthy for humans.

According to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG), in the two to five minutes that cookware coated with Teflon is heating on a conventional stovetop, temperatures can exceed to the point that the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases. At various temperatures these coatings can release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens. Birds` respiratory systems are sensitive to the fumes of heated non-stick pans. The lungs of exposed birds have been known to hemorrhage and fill up with fluid leading to suffocation, a condition called “Teflon Toxicosis.” Most bird owners are unaware of this hazard.

For humans an effect called “polymer fume fever” has been acknowledged. This is said to be a temporary influenza-like syndrome, but it is still unknown what the long term effects of exposure might be. As if this was not bad enough, when the pans with these coatings get scratched during cooking, small amounts of plastic and leached aluminum cling to the food and then are ingested.

Toxic chemicals are also prevalent in the environment because of the use of these pans. A study done in 2005 by the Environmental Working Group in collaboration with Commonweal found perflourooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical found in such pans and a known carcinogen, in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. John Hopkins Medical Center did a similar test in 2006 where PFOA was present in the umbilical cord blood of 99% of the 300 infants tested.

There are many new pans on the market today that are considered safe, but research is necessary to figure out exactly what chemicals are present. Cast iron pans are also a great alternative. They add beneficial iron to the diet and they heat evenly without adding toxic chemicals to the dish.

Learn more:

Safe Alternatives to Teflon Non-Stick Pans

By StashaO, eHow Contributor
September 29, 2010

Teflon non-stick pans first hit the market in the 1960s. Their original durability was questionable when pieces of the pan started scraping off into food. Today, Teflon pans are more durable and the US Environmental Protection Agency states that they are safe to use. Some consumer watchdog groups disagree and argue that the chemicals are toxic and can cause cancer. For those with worries, there are Teflon alternatives.

Cast Iron – Cast iron can be a non-stick pan when properly seasoned. Seasoning requires little effort and afterward becomes virtually non-stick. To season, coat the skillet with cooking oil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately an hour. Pat dry with a towel and your cast iron pan is ready to be used. There is cast iron cookware on the market that comes pre-seasoned or coated with porcelain. Cooking with cast iron increases the amount of iron absorbed into food as it cooks.

Hard Anodized Aluminum – Hard anodized aluminum is another coating alternative to Teflon. Instead of being coated, the aluminum goes through a process called anodization. After the anodization process, aluminum pans are scratch resistant, non-stick and free of chemicals. Hard anodized aluminum also prevents aluminum from reacting to acidic foods, a common problem with uncoated aluminum.

Stainless steel – Mixing steel with chromium and nickel (18/8 stainless steel is 18% chromium and 8% nickel while 18/10 has 10% nickel) produces a corrosion resistant steel that is both hard wearing and easy to clean. Stainless steel cookware is considered one of the best and safest choices in cookware.

GreenPan – is a non-stick substitute to Teflon. GreenPans are coated with Thermolon, a substance that contains no polytetrafluoroethylene (PFOA). PFOA is the main chemical in Teflon that critics worry is toxic and cancer-causing. GreenPan claims that its pans are environmentally conscious during the coating process as well. According to its website, GreenPan produces 60 percent less CO2 emissions.

Click here to learn more about healthy cookware.


About Kim Martindale

Mother of two, wife of one, home manager, gardener, student of health and wellness, world traveler, nature lover, researcher, Jesus follower, community builder. I'm seeking to become resilient and to live sustainably. I desire to give back and share what I'm learning with others.


One thought on “Why I Stopped Using Teflon Pans

  1. Ho…ly…Smoke. That is an eye opener. I knew that Teflon pieces were bad (from scraping with metal utensils or hard cleaning), but I was NOT aware of how quickly Teflon can release toxic fumes.

    I’m glad you touched on some alternatives at the end. Pots and pans with a copper exterior or copper bottom are also things to consider when looking for Teflon replacements, as the copper conducts heat quickly and efficiently.

    I’ve been getting a little more in depth with some non-Teflon alternatives at

    Posted by Rance Rizzutto | September 7, 2011, 12:01 AM

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