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Old 12-06-2007, 11:07 PM   #1
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Article on Nonstick Cookware Safety

There is an article in the November 2007 issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine titled, “Nervous About Nonstick?” It is a no nonsense article focused on settling the questions about the safety of nonstick pans. I couldn’t find it online to link so here is a summary of the key points:

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute with the assistance of Robert L. Wolke, Ph.D., professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and Kurunthachalam Kannan, Ph.D., an environmental toxicologist at the New York State Department of Health, tested and analyzed results.

The article addresses the common fears attached to nonstick cookware and debunks some, labeling the cookware as safe with conditions.

When nonstick surfaces reach a temperature exceeding 500 F., the nonstick surface begins to break down and starts releasing chemical compounds. When the surface temperature reaches 660 F., gases are released which can cause flu like symptoms in humans. These gases can be fatal to small birds. At 680 F., toxic gases are released, but in such small quantities as to be harmless.

Bits of nonstick coating that may flake off a pan surface are harmless if ingested. They simply pass through your body.

PFOA, a chemical known to cause tumors and developmental defects in animals (there is no proven harmful effect on humans) is used in the manufacturing process but is not present in the finished product. PFOA is present in other products such as microwave popcorn bags, fast food containers, shampoos, carpeting and clothing.

The article offers six steps to cooking safely with nonstick cookware:
  • Never preheat an empty pan. The temperature can exceed safe levels in as little as two minutes in pans made with thinner materials.
  • Don’t cook on high heat. Set your burner to medium and cook at that level. This is also the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Ventilate the kitchen. Turn on your exhaust fans.
  • Don’t broil or sear meats. These cooking methods call for higher heat than is safe for nonstick cookware. Use a different type of pan.
  • Buy heavier nonstick pans. Thicker metal pans take longer to reach and exceed dangerous temperature levels so you have a margin for error if you forget a pan on the burner.
  • Don’t continue to cook with pans that have damaged nonstick coatings. Use wood or plastic utensils to prolong the life of the surface.
My take from this article is that nonstick pans are fine to use and you don’t have to avoid them “just to be on the safe side”. Overheating should not be a problem as long as you don’t leave an empty pan on a burner going full blast and walk away.
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Old 12-06-2007, 11:09 PM   #2
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Thanks, Andy, for the information. I know a lot of folks who have birds as pets will appreciate this information.
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Old 12-06-2007, 11:33 PM   #3
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http://www.discusscooking.com/forums...-flu-4144.html

Here's our chat back in '04 about it.
I haven't bought non-stick since then and haven't missed it (although I'm still looking for a good griddle that's not non-stick or cast iron, the latter because of the sheer weight)

I was in Macy's recently and was looking through some griddles (always hoping) and was reading the warning labels on the cookware. Sure enough it said something relating to birds. I asked the saleswoman if they had any griddles that weren't non-stick, and pointed out the warning label. She said, "oh they just put that there to cover their butts. It's not like it ever would happen". I'm afraid too many think that way.
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Old 12-07-2007, 06:47 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jkath View Post
http://www.discusscooking.com/forums...-flu-4144.html

Here's our chat back in '04 about it.
I haven't bought non-stick since then and haven't missed it (although I'm still looking for a good griddle that's not non-stick or cast iron, the latter because of the sheer weight)

I was in Macy's recently and was looking through some griddles (always hoping) and was reading the warning labels on the cookware. Sure enough it said something relating to birds. I asked the saleswoman if they had any griddles that weren't non-stick, and pointed out the warning label. She said, "oh they just put that there to cover their butts. It's not like it ever would happen". I'm afraid too many think that way.

There is a real risk for pet birds. The key is the temperature. In fact, it's not normal to get a pan that hot for the usual things such as eggs. It's when one tries to cook a high heat item that problems can result.
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Old 12-07-2007, 07:34 AM   #5
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Great information Andy! Thanks for taking the time to post it!!
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Old 12-07-2007, 07:40 AM   #6
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"Never preheat an empty pan".

I'm guilty.

Thanks for that info, Andy.
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Old 12-07-2007, 03:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
Bits of nonstick coating that may flake off a pan surface are harmless if ingested.
But, you will never describe any food with the term "sticks to your ribs" again.
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Old 12-07-2007, 03:24 PM   #8
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Very good update, Andy.

Lower temps and thicker pans seem to work well together dues to better heat distribution anyway.

A small amount of sugar seems to help immensely with browning in non-stick pans at medium temps without imparting any sweetness.
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Old 12-07-2007, 04:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Bits of nonstick coating that may flake off a pan surface are harmless if ingested.
I was wondering where all that extra pepper was coming from
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Old 12-08-2007, 11:43 AM   #10
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thanks andy.

and thanks jkath. that was one of my favourite old discussions. lol, emus.
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Old 12-27-2007, 05:27 PM   #11
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I think it's funny the way normally level headed people react when they hear about the posibility that teflon can be harmful when overheated and ignore the fact that any cooking medium whether liquid or solid will be just as harmfull to birds and humans when heated past thier smoke points which is much lower than teflons danger point.
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Old 01-01-2008, 02:06 AM   #12
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That Good Housekeeping article may be restrained by what they owe to their advertisers. Here's a quote from an article about "Teflon Toxicity: compounds from household products found in human blood".

Quote:
PFCs have turned up in wildlife on at least three continents and above the Arctic Circle, in the blood of dolphins, seals, sea lions, minks, polar bears, gulls, albatrosses, bald eagles, sea turtles, and dozens more species. They are widespread in seafood. Fifteen PFCs have been identified in human blood samples, with highest concentrations in Americans. PFOA has been found in the blood of 90 percent to 95 percent of U.S. residents who have been screened. Once in the body, it doesn't leave quickly; almost four years after being taken in, half of the original amount remains.
(Abovementioned chemicals are compounds that are used in non-stick manufacture or thrown off when they break down)

Nasty stuff is released into the environment when the non-stick surfaces are made, and that is enough to dissuade me. Also, I can't be persuaded that these have no effect on the finished product, especially if cooking with these pans causes problems to pets.

I've never bought any, nor felt the need. If I'm going to cook or eat out of some container, I don't want to be thinking about toxins and disease while I'm using it. I took a class in Ayurvedic cooking, and they stress how important is the state of mind when one is cooking.
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Old 01-01-2008, 04:51 AM   #13
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Alton Brown did a show about non stick and the toxic gases..just don't preheat it to a high temp
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Old 01-01-2008, 11:07 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dragonfly77 View Post
Here's a quote from an article about "Teflon Toxicity: compounds from household products found in human blood".
You didn't mention who wrote the article. Wouldn't happen to be an militant environmental group, such as Greenpeace, would it?
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Old 01-01-2008, 02:28 PM   #15
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Actually, I did, but it was edited out by a mod. I'm a newbie, and am not allowed to mention links, either directly or obliquely.

It was from a group called "eartheasy" and you can Google them and look up their article on "Teflon Toxicity."

The good editors of Good Housekeeping, recipient of much advertising revenue from Dupont, may not have thought to mention the numerous lawsuits against the company, one of which was conducted by the federal EPA, charging that the company was wilfully concealing information from the public for years. They would not admit wrong-doing, but conceded and paid the largest settlement ever won by the EPA, an agency that protects the planet and wildlife -- like me! ;)

I just think, that since there's no reason to own any of this cookware, and many reasons not to own it, for me -- I'll do without.

One thing I've noticed about our culture is that our primary religion might be called "The Cult of Convenience." If something is convenient -- faster, easier, less effort -- we seem to follow it no matter what, as if the laws of physics, biology, and chemistry can be reasoned with: "I wanted to do _____, but I just didn't have the time, it was too much trouble!" And as if then, we could hear a voice from the sky saying: "Oh -- OK. I didn't realize how inconvenient that would be for you."

I've found that when I try to reason with time and tide or natural law -- they don't listen. They just do what they do. So if I don't want to be crushed beneath them, I'd better find a way to make something convenient, or I might not like the price I'll have to pay.

Taking pills is the communion of this religion -- whenever something's off, we take a pill. Instead of looking for the cause and really fixing it. Then those pills cause side-effects, and we take pills for those.

I recently developed a system for myself, the "I Can Eat Healthy and Turn My Health Scored Around, Even Though I'm a Klutz in the Kitchen" diet. ;) I had gone through a period of terrible stress (forced to move, losing a parent, work situation going south faster than geese in fall, etc.), and my scores had become alarming.

I decided to make healthy eating convenient -- and my scores turned around dramatically, to better than they'd ever been before. (Or probably, since childhood.) It turned around my thyroid reading (which for the first time had been off), cholesterol score and balance (between good and bad), and moved my doctor to exclaim, "You'll have to tell me about this plan of yours -- because I don't see scores like this!"

So I've become a wild heretic to the religion of convenience. ;)

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Old 01-01-2008, 02:37 PM   #16
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All well and good but be careful not to accept the word of groups with their own agendas. "Eartheasy" may not be presenting the whole picture either.

I understand your point about GH's possible financial motives but I believe they have a desire to maintain their integrity and that of the GH Seal of Approval. I know of and respect the scientists employed to do the study. I have read articles by Robert Wolke, outside of this GH connection that makes the same statements about teflon.
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Old 01-10-2008, 07:00 PM   #17
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These are my two cents on this discussion:

ALL Thermoplastics release gases. Non-stick materials, included Teflon, are not exception to this rule.
Because of the potential effects of PFOA, I don't use non-stick cookware.

These gases don't necessary need to smell bad. As an example: The nice smell your brand new car interior has, is due to the materials degassing in a close environment, and not particualry recommended for the human body. The best thing you can do is roll down the windows when you are driving it initially, specially during high temperature days.
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Old 01-11-2008, 02:54 PM   #18
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Ahh, wysiwyg, it's nice to see I'm not the only one on the planet who doesn't trust non-stick cookware. ;)

A wise English lit professor once told me that, when it's all said and done, and the meaning of life is finally known, we'll find out that -- we knew it all along. It was contained in every fable, old wives' tale, wise saying, axiom, or adage since the dawn of time. One of those, which could be the epitaph of the human species is: "Ye shall not surely die."

Remember that? From old religious training as a child? It's what was said in the Garden of Eden as Adam & Eve were rationalizing giving in to temptation. I'm taking it as a metaphor, here: Because people do not drop dead on the spot as soon as they use something, then -- aaahh, what's the big deal? It ain't gonna kill ya.

My parents used to say that about smoking. But they were wrong. I think it's wrong in this case, too -- the company is probably saying, "Well, a little bit of toxin ain't gonna kill ya!" But it's not their choice to make.

Experience has shown that whenever a company has done research to develop something, they will find a way to market that product in order to recoup their expenditures and line their pockets. Regardless of what it does to the innocent, unsuspecting people who will believe their advertising and buy it.

So no -- I'm not silly enough to entirely believe one website's allegation that there may be harm in something -- or when GH says there's no harm in it at all. But I do believe in the 'weathervanes' of the Laws of Physics and the Laws of Human Nature. The latter are by no means as immutable, but sometimes even more predictable!

When I see that the magazine that says nonstick cookware is OK is also an entity that takes money from them for advertising, and that the company that's researched the item is bound to push it for profit, and that the laws of physics say a toxin is a toxin -- then I say yes, Ye shall surely die. It's the one non-mutable fact of life, in fact. The only thing we get to do is cast votes about when it happens: lifestyle choices that vote Yea or Nay.

I just don't see the need to support DuPont. I can get food cooked, quite conveniently, without the seasoning of "just a pinch of death" that the DuPont company thinks is "acceptable risk."

The only "acceptable risk" is one that's falls on somebody else -- they always mentally exempt themselves. The gases those substances release are deadly, and even more so when released into the environment and the substance breaks down. And deadly stuff is released while they're manufacturing it, too, if I remember correctly.

So I spend the extra few minutes to clean the pan, and count it as time well-spent -- one risk to me avoided, and another in that the choice is one vote for protecting the environment, as well.
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Old 01-11-2008, 07:46 PM   #19
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When I see that the magazine that says nonstick cookware is OK is also an entity that takes money from them for advertising, and that the company that's researched the item is bound to push it for profit, and that the laws of physics say a toxin is a toxin -- then I say yes, Ye shall surely die.
Yes it is a good policy to not just blindly follow what is said. However there are plenty of studies in which people have no stake in the outcome that have said that it is safe to use these products. You can believe what you want and I will believe what I want. That is one of the great things about living somewhere where we are allowed that freedom.
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Old 01-12-2008, 09:02 AM   #20
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dragonfly, how much do you know about a subject called epigenetics?

i think it would pique your interests.

not all things we consume/absorb/inhale have direct affects on us, but it may have on the "activity" of our genome.

and stop listening to english lit professors. they're creepy people who live vicariously through their books, rather than experience life for itself.
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