It’s not necessary to be a chemist to understand the following: the U.S. EPA says that PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), a chemical employed in the manufacture of the polymer used in nonstick cookware, PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), is likely to be carcinogenic to humans. It has been found at low levels in the blood of humans, remains in our bodies for years, and has been linked to other health issues involving the liver, the immune system, as well as developmental and reproductive organs.
In 2005, the U.S. EPA settled a case against DuPont for allegedly withholding PFOA health risk information. It was the largest administrative civil penalty ever obtained under any federal environmental statute: $16.5 million. DuPont and other chemical companies are to eliminate PFOA and similar substances by 2015. It’s unclear how much better their replacements are.
Industry types contend very little PFOA winds up in nonstick pans, often sold under the brand name Teflon. Environmental health types contend it gets into your food via scratched pans, and into your lungs if cookware is heated to high temperatures. The fumes can cause flu-like symptoms in humans, and can even kill birds. Even if your pan is scratch-free, there’s a manufacturing system involved in making nonstick items, which ripples out and reaches beyond your pan. It’s best avoided.
Use cast iron, enamel coated cast iron, and stainless steel pans.
Reviews of new cookware being marketed as green haven’t been very positive. Read the fine print; lead-free ceramic is tried and true, a new chemical coating is not.