Sunday, 3 May 2015

Non-stick cookware, why does is matter?

Celeste Yuyitung

As a cooking enthusiast, I can definitely say that non-stick pans are a saving grace when it comes to cleaning and not having half of your meal stuck to your pot; but as a chemistry student, I would have to say that they are actually a large health risk.

How non stick cookware work is that the cooking surface is coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (abbreviated to PTFE), a type of fluoropolymer. The molecular makeup of a polymer is that it is a molecule makeup of the similar smaller molecules. In this case, fluorine atoms. These hold distinct characteristics of PTFE. Since fluorine's electron structure is very stable it does not want to share it's electrons, therefore making it's surface not very tacky. (Brown, How Nonstick Cookware Works) This is why it is advised not to use steel wool to clean non-stick pans, because you would then scrape off the layer of PTFE.

But how does such a chemical harm it's user? At high temperatures(about 550 degrees Fahrenheit/230 degrees Celsius) non-stick pans release gaseous fumes from another chemical used -- perfluooctanoic(PFTOA). (McClain, Eating Well) PFTOA is also found in most food packaging such as microwavable popcorn, water resistant clothing, and select building materials. Traces of PFTOA has been found with a variety of concentration in almost every american's blood. (McClain, Eating Well)

When exposed and inhaled, PFTOA can result in health symptoms such as:
  • Risk of liver, pancreatic, testicular and mammary gland tumors
  • Generalised damage to the immune system
  • Children’s health and development
  • Reproductive problems and birth defects
  • Flu like symptoms
(Corriher, The Dangers of Non-Stick Cookware)

Clearly there are many pros and cons to Non-stick cookware. There are also alternative non-stick pans with mineral coatings that do not use PFTOA or PTFE that can be easily found on amazon. But it might be time for that favourite teflon pan of yours to be put aside, there’s no point of it sticking around in your kitchen, unless you don’t mind the potential health risks that come with it. Obviously, not every american who has used and is currently using a non stick pan is going to die or become severely sick because of this, but it is definitely not a matter you would want to overlook.

QOTD:  Do you think there should be clearer warning labels on non-stick products and any packaging containing PFTFE and PFTOA? Do the pros of the usability outweigh the potential health risks?

Thank you for reading!

To see the bibliography, check the resources post that will be updated every entry!


1 comment:

  1. Hi celeste,
    It makes so much sense know why my parents never use non-stick pans! I think that is really good suggestion because I think that there is a lot of items that we use that we aren’t aware of that have possible health problems. I don’t think that little bit of time saved clean is worth the possible time taken off your life from consuming these harmful chemicals. It’s a bit similar to what I did for matter and bonding. I did mine on dioxins which are harmful chemicals which we consume through meat products. I think that it should be illegal for companies to put harmful chemicals on products without putting a notice on it.