Death By Teflon

I remember the first teflon skillet my mom bought.  It had rules.  We were never supposed to use metal utensils when preparing food in it.  Or  immerse the pan  while hot into cold water.  It was officially the skillet we made eggs in.  I also remember that somehow my younger brother or someone started not following the rules and the pan started to peel.  I thought to myself, I don’t think pots and pans are supposed to peel.  I personally didn’t like making my eggs in that  pan because they didn’t taste right.  When I moved out I was supposed to be grateful for whatever someone gave me along the way, but the teflon stuff – uh – uh – I wasn’t going to use it.

I was teflon – phobic 30 years ago.

Teflon is a so called heat resistant plastic. Discovered by accident ( hmmm not by design ) by a Dupont chemist in 1938.  They began using the stuff in the 50’s as a low-friction coating for bearings and gears.  In the 60’s it was approved by the FDA for use in cookware.  Not the EPA, the FDA.  A chemical coating used in manufactoring was now going to make pots and pans slippery and easy to clean was approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  Does that make sense to you?  Things we were going to cook/heat food in and then and eat,  are now coated in plastic.  Plastic that as far as I know melts when it gets hot.

Don’t mind me if I am simplistic in my thoughts here.

A small detail was later discovered – gee,  if we get the pan hot enough it will release a lovely chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid or
PFOA – The fumes of which are fatal to pet birds.  The company also further acknowledges that in humans there is a flu like condition called polymerfume fever, mostly noted in the company’s labs.  In animals the lovely chemical can cause cancer, immune system damage and oh – I especially like this one – death.

Death by Teflon!

flickr image credit

Here’s an absolutely amazing statistic:  95% of all Americans have traces of this chemical in their blood.
Excuse me? Ninety Five Percent?

Dear EPA and FDA,

What is it about languaging like fatal, cause of illness, cause of cancer, damaging to the immune system and death, don’t you understand?

Dear Consumer,

WHY are you continuing to consume these harmful chemical products ?

While no study actually proves that Teflon is harmful to humans, wonder who would actually pay to conduct a study like that.  Dupont paid out a 107.6 million dollar lawsuit in 2005 brought to their attention by 50,000 people along the Ohio River near it’s West Virginia Plant.  These people claim they had health challenges and birth defects from PFOA contamination.  While the company admits no liabilty they did pay for 8 EPA based violations, one of which was failure to disclose what they knew about the harm this chemical could cause. 

Non-stick users from 15 states have similar concerns and an EPA advisory board labels PFOA as a likely carcinogenic

Hmmmm carcinogenic

EPA asked Dupont to phase out the chemical.  I don’t understand this request.  Whatever happened to stop making this stuff.  Dupont won’t.  Although by 2015 (that’s 6 years from now folks) they  say they will reduce the amount of PFOA used, and they will guaruntee that the chemical won’t be released into the environment from it’s manufacturing plants.  In the mean time it is being released into the environment just loads. 

It’s OK to do that now but won’t be OK in 6 years?  
Further the EPA says, oh go ahead and use these carcinogenic pots and pans, under normal use there is really little harm.  Forget the the part where it says in microscopic print on the teeny tiny sticker label on the plastic you rip off—  promise not to heat an empty nonstick pan to high heat and do not put a hot pan in cold water then releases Dupont from any liability?  

Wonder how many people actually read their packaging labels ?

I have this image of mass production of these slippery convenient carcinogenic cooking items, enough to fill warehouses across the country from floor to ceiling.  So that when someday when the EPA has the gumption to actually enforce some real action and regulation.  Dupont will have made enough to last an eternity.

That along with marachino cherry’s banned ever so long ago for it’s carcinogenic red food dye – duh – again when supplies run out. That’s the thing – they will never run out.  There are secret tunnels all over the world filled with jars and jars of these harmful cherries, it’s some sortof hot fudge sundae with a cherry on top plot.

sourced partly from an article in Time – June 2006 (  not the cherry part – ha! )

Regarding which pots and pans to use, and what’s
safe?  It’s all a matter of perspective and choice. I choose stainless steel and cast iron.

I try to avoid plastics in general, in my kitchen I do pretty darn good, it’s ever so hard when plastic is pervasive in so much.

I personally think the choices are there. More have to choose alternatively to make a difference.

retro teflon ad flickr image credit

karen hanrahan | wellness educator and consultant | writer
nutrition ~ green clean ~ inch loss  ~ anti-aging

Contact me:  708.482.0678   

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5 Responses to Death By Teflon

  1. Love this article-May I use it in a future issue of Health & Wellness Magazine?I will include your bio/web address whatever.Patricia MartinHealth & Wellness Magazine5133 Harding Road #318Nashville, TN 37205email healthandwellnessmag@comcast.net615 356-8404

  2. JessTrev says:

    Great post, Karen – hope you are healing well. When you get a moment, I am curious about how you make waffles. I cook on stainless steel/cast iron, have a ceramic crock pot, steel bakeware (for the most part), but haven’t figured out the waffle maker angle. Thanks!

  3. Karen Hanrahan says:

    hi jess …thank you for your warm wishes and your comment here– i actually have never made waffles – more of a french toast/ pancake girl – like you i use the same cookware, i would think if a cast iron waffle pan is cured properly. heated and oiled well prior to adding batter that it would be fine – experiment and let me know what you discover

  4. Hi Karen,I love this post…I too remember looking at labels as a kid, and thinking “What the heck is this stuff?” But never did I think that the government was as lax about regulation as it actually is…Lynn

  5. Karen Hanrahan says:

    thank you lynn — i feel the very same way…it’s like what regulation

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