This is a debate that has been on going for years. Are they safe? Should we throw away our existing non-stick cookware? After researching for days I’ve concluded the safest answer is yes.
The use of non-stick pans was approved by the government in 1960, but that approval was made without any concrete data about the safety of such a product. After the safety debate came to a head, many manufactures claimed the pans were safe so long as they were not heated over 660 degrees F. A typical non-stick pan that’s inadvertently left empty can reach that temperature in a few minutes.
Why so much worry about the specific temperature the pan reaches? When the pan is over heated, the non-stick coating breaks down and produces PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid,) which is thought to be a human carcinogen.
I became more alert to the issue when the EPA stepped in and started focusing its attention to these chemicals. This chemical can also be found in several other household items, such as food packaging (microwaveable popcorn bags), upholstery, and hygiene products. The FDA has linked the traces of this chemical in our bloods to several health risks including: risks of tumors, thyroid disease, immune deficiencies, and birth defects.
The EPA filed suit against the industry and reached a settlement in 2005 that included over $313 million in damages for concealing the harmful health effects of PFOA. This lead to the EPA asking for the complete withdraw of these products from the marketplace by 2015. Even after this request, there has been much debate from some within the industry about how these products are in fact safe for consumer use.
Some advise the harmful health effects can be minimized by being “careful.” To be careful, one must discard cookware with scratches, avoid heating non-stick cookware over 660 degrees, never use under a broiler or leave an empty skillet on a burner. You’re a lot smarter than me if you know when your pan reaches 660 degrees.
There are some healthier cookware options to consider:
Stainless steel – this is an affordable alternative if you’re short on cash to replace your old cookware. The Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel Cookware Set is a great option at an affordable price. I’ve also been eyeing the All-Clad Stainless Steel Set, as it’s known for superior quality and is used by many pro cooks. It’s also dishwasher safe, which is a-maze-ing. Sadly, these will likely stay on my wish list as they are pretty expensive.
Cast iron – this is definitely the safest option, and can even come with some health benefits. There won’t be any harmful toxins leaching into your food with these pans. Lodge has a several options, starting as low as $11 for an 8-inch skillet. Or, if you’d rather, splurge and go for Le Creuset. The entire cookware line is beautiful. You’ll pay slightly more for this one though. 🙂
Green Non-Stick Cookware – Several companies have created new technologies in an attempt to offer safer non-stick cookware. Green Pan and Orgreenic has options that are non-stick without the toxic coatings.
What is your favorite non-stick cookware?