Non-stick cookware is a usual thing these days. Thanks to its non-stick properties we almost forgot what scraping off thick layers of burnt food from pans feels like. Teflon coating was developed for space shuttles. Today it is used in razor blades and tank trunks. However, according to recent medical research Teflon can be dangerous.
As shown by the studies conducted by the School of Medicine at the University of West Virginia, high levels of perfluorooctane acid (used to manufacture Teflon coating) in human blood increase the risk of arthritis by 40%. The scientists have been working with people living around a chemical plant in Ohio. The surrounding waters had high content of PFOA and PFOS acids, derivatives of Teflon, because of the existing production. These acids belong to a class of persistent organic pollutants, i.e., they stay in soil, water and human body for a very long time. Not only they have a significant effect on metabolism and immune system, but also provoke arthritis. In the course of the experiments it was found that people with high content of PFOA in their blood were 40% more likely to get the disease.
However, the danger of Teflon was pointed out long time ago. Scientists from the University of California reported that the blood of women who have problems conceiving revealed high concentrations of the components that make up the non-stick coatings - PFOA and PFOS acids. These studies are unambiguous: women with this diagnosis on average required a year longer to become pregnant, compared to those without similar issues. The U.S. Agency for environmental issues accused DuPont of the fact that it deliberately was not conducting studies of the effect of Teflon on the human body. In addition, they were accused of hiding the results of studies showing that components of Teflon as a serious threat to overall health and reproductive function. The consequences are even worse for children. The derivatives of Teflon increase the risk of liver disease, pancreatitis, testicular cancer and breast cancer. Changes in the endocrine system have been recorded, which affect the development of hormones responsible for reproduction, and thyroid hormone. Also, these acids adversely affect the immune system.
In the normal state Teflon is inert. Its chemical resistance is superior to that of gold. There is no acid or alkali capable of dissolving it, and water, grease and solvents do not wet it. It is a wonder material with only one disadvantage - the temperature. When heated above 260 degrees Celsius, non-stick coatings based on Teflon begin to disintegrate, and hazardous constituents are emitted into the air. Aside from the obvious adverse health effects, there is damage to the entire planet. The four-carbon fluoride that evaporates from the pans when heated to 300 degrees is 6,000 times more active than carbon dioxide, and contributes to the global warming. Besides, it does not break down in the environment for 50,000 years. However, there are obvious advantages of Teflon, otherwise the world would long ago stopped using it. Aside from the obvious relief of kitchen work, this coating allows cooking with little or no oil, hence no extra calories. Therefore, food cooked on Teflon is not damaging to your waist. Teflon coating begins to melt at a temperature of 260 degrees Celsius, and completely decomposes at a temperature of 349 degrees. Teflon starts to lose color and its non-stick properties and emit noxious fumes. These gases are so dangerous that they may kill indoor birds that have delicate respiratory system. A Teflon pan forgotten on the stove kills a canary bird in a day. If you are not willing to part with this type of frying pan, remember not to heat it to high temperatures. If you are not cooking, do not leave the pan on the stove or in the oven. Do not use it for baking.
Stainless steel cookware is a good alternative. The food is cooked better because of the direct contact between the product and the metal surface, which cookware with Teflon coating does not provide. Another option is cast iron cookware. It has a non-stick effect, but it takes some time to get it there. Every time cast-iron cookware is used for frying with oil, fat particles penetrate the surface of the pan and stay there, creating indelible non-stick layer. And finally, the healthiest way is to give up fried food provided you are ready to bring this sacrifice.