Is Teflon Cookware Safe?

So, growing up and making homemade Indian bread daily, we used Teflon cookware ALL the time. I even remember using pots and pans until the coating would begin peeling! And until a few weeks ago, I still had one skillet that I would use for items like 'dosas' or pancakes or homemade Indian bread. I finally decided to part with it and now use my cast iron pan & stainless steel pots for everything. It has definitely been a HUGE adjustment moving to 100% cast iron & stainless steel. Cast iron takes more time to care for, it is heavier and learning how to use it takes time as well.

One of the reasons why Teflon is widely used is because it is non-stick, light, and easy to care for. If you are like me, how much time it takes to clean something is definitely a factor when purchasing essential kitchen items. 

So why did I ditch mine & why does teflon have a questionable reputation?

Teflon is the brand name of a chemical called polytetrafluoroethylene which is part of a group of chemicals called Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs). PFCs are often used to keep food from sticking to cookware (nonstick), to make sofas and carpets resistant to stains, to make clothes and mattresses more waterproof etc.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, PFCs (like teflon) break down very slowly in the environment & therefore they aren't environmentally friendly materials. What is also interesting is that continued exposure to PFCs results in bioaccumulation in our bodies. Bioaccumulation is just a fancy word meaning that the concentration of the PFCs increase over time. 

The research, currently available, reveals mixed data.

Animal studies, seem to show that PFCs disrupt normal endocrine activity, reduce immune function and can cause adverse effects on multiple organs. However, human studies, suggest that while PFCs may have adverse health effects in some people, the results are inconclusive. 

But, the very fact that we know PFCs bioaccumulate is information enough for me to ditch the teflon. I don't want to be using a pan or pot daily that can leach a manmade substance (no matter how minute) my body is not able to quickly get rid of and as a result accumulates in my body.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted tests in 2003 that showed 'in just two to five minutes on a conventional stove top, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces could exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases."

So, if you are research-minded, having Teflon cookware that is cared for & replaced frequently may seem more logical than replacing it with cast iron or stainless steel. If you are someone who aids on the 'natural' side of kitchen essentials, maybe you will want to ditch your Teflon for environmental purposes. And if you are like me, someone who is a little bit of both, maybe you need the research, conversations with friends/colleagues, and an environmental cause to make a decision like 'ditching teflon.' 

I do want to mention that the transition to more durable and environmentally friendly cookware began three years ago for me when I had my own home to take care of. Some of you may not require that much time to transition but just know that transitions don't have to happen overnight. You need to be convinced it is something you want to do and have the resources to do it. Cast iron isn't cheap and I had to invest in pieces gradually. I have my eye, next, on a cast iron tortilla press so I can make tortillas at home!

I would love to hear what you think so please comment below so we can learn from each other!

Be Radiant,

~Dr. Dimpi