By: Sapna Fliedner MSN, HHC
How important is it for you to use non-stick pans? They give us convenience when cleaning up after cooking, but studies show that they may be giving us much more than we anticipated. Recent studies show that chemicals used in non-stick and stain resistant goods may cause a whole variety of health problems to those who use them.
The Dangers Of C8
Perflurooctanoic Acid (also known as PFOA or C8) is used in Teflon and other non-stick coatings. It is found in fast food packaging, snack wrappers, pizza boxes, drink cups and other packaged goods. It’s also used in many products that are stain resistant.
Studies in lab animals, as well as several accidental contamination sites near DuPont plants, have shown that PFOA causes health problems. Studies in mice conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health showed that PFOA caused overreactions to certain allergens, which led researchers to conclude that it may weaken immune systems. Although Teflon manufacturers deny that there is any probable effect on humans, no research to prove this has been carried out.
However, the DuPont contaminations seem to imply that there are serious health risks to humans. The contaminations were initially hidden by the chemical giant, but recently residents in those areas affected by the spills have filed lawsuits against it. Because of this, the Environmental Protection Agency has urged DuPont to stop using these toxins, but it has yet to make a commitment to do this.
Health problems caused by this chemical include:
– Thyroid Problems
– Increased rates of miscarriage
– Raised levels of cholesterol, both the good and bad kinds. (This study was found in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
– Higher levels of ADHD in children. PFOA was found in the blood of ADHD-diagnosed children at much higher levels.
– Changes in the brain, liver, prostate, kidneys and thymus.
– Changes in the pituitary gland, which affects reproductive and metabolic functions. These changes are linked to birth defects and low birth rate in the areas where DuPont contaminated the groundwater wells.
– Tumors in animal tests, leading researchers to believe that it may cause cancer.
– Immune system problems.
Studies have also shown that exposure to PFOA in women passes it on to their unborn children. One study found that higher exposure to PFOA’s was related to a delay in the age at which a baby can sit up without assistance.
What Causes Exposure To C8?
The danger of PFOA comes from the fumes given off from these products. Once inhaled, it stays in your blood and tissue, and from there it causes the above health problems. PFOA’s are found in the bloodstream of 95% of American men, women and children.
Although we don’t know to what extent, cooking with non-stick cookware definitely increases the risk. According to DuPont, the chemical is used only in its manufacturing process and not in end products, but they’ve already demonstrated to us their level of corporate responsibility by contaminating the groundwater, potentially killing local people and trying to cover it up. Studies show that people who use non-stick products have a higher rate of cancer and other health problems, so we can be quite sure this is a lie.
We definitely know that non-stick cookware that is cracked or peeling poses a higher risk. Cracked areas give off fumes that contain PFOA’s which can easily be inhaled. Inexpensive, cheap Teflon pans tend to chip faster, thus releasing PFOA’s in higher amounts. The exact dangers are not known, but this is such a serious issue that the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit research organization, has petitioned the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission to begin warning people about them. (You can see the PDF of this petition here: http://www.ewg.org/files/CPSCbirds.pdf)
It’s not only non-stick products that we have to worry about. Sandwich toasters, griddles and George Foreman type grills all contain the chemical. So do all the major brands sold in stores.
In addition to non-stick and stain resistant materials, anything made with Teflon carries a higher risk. Fumes from heated Teflon have been found to kill small animals. This was reported on ABC’s news show “20/20,” along with reports by the Environmental Protection Agency that PFOA’s from Teflon had appeared in higher levels in the blood of children born with birth defects. I have also read stories of small birds and parrots who were kept in the kitchen during cooking, and died after inhaling these fumes. Could the small bird be analogous to the canary in the coal mine? It’s ironic people don’t make the connection. Yes, birds are smaller and die faster. What about our children?
If you cook with these goods, you are at high risk. Even if you don’t, there is still a risk because restaurants often use non-stick surfaces because they’re easy to clean. They use these pans to make stir-fry at your favorite Asian restaurant, or pancakes and omelets made at your local IHOP. Environmental Working Group studies have even found the chemical in the wildlife of three continents. Countries where PFOA has been found in wildlife include the United States, Canada, Japan, Italy, Belgium and Russia. PFOA has also been found in the wildlife of more remote areas like Midway Atoll’s Sand Island Wildlife Refuge.
What You Can Do
There is currently no federal regulation for exposure to this toxin. Companies like DuPont are free to continue selling goods that may cause cancer, birth defects and death.
However, one thing you can do for you and your family is avoid using non-stick, Teflon or stain-resistant goods. You can also protect yourself by using high quality goods rather than the more inexpensive ones. We use stainless steel, cast iron or glassware. We eat some of our foods raw, which don’t require cookware, thus eliminating our exposure. We try to avoid restaurants as much as possible by only eating out about once a month or when we travel.
-Avoid foods such as microwave popcorn, french fries, candy bars and pizza. Teflon is commonly used with these foods.
-Avoid stain-resistant carpeting. Every time you vacuum, you are releasing these fumes into the air of your home.
-Open your windows frequently in your home.
Many people use Teflon pans because they have to use less oil and the food doesn’t stick to the pans. Cast iron and stainless steel do require more oil but we use coconut oil for all of our cooking, which doesn’t break down when exposed to high heat. In fact, it is one of the most healthiest oils to cook with. Olive oil and canola oil turn into unhealthy trans fat with free radicals when heated. I drizzle olive oil after cooking on top of foods but never to cook with.
Never use aluminum pans as they leach aluminum which is directly related to Alzhemer’s.
Educate yourself on all products that use these chemical and avoid them. Start to educate others by telling them this information as well.
“Allergy alert over slippery chemical.” New Scientist – http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19426095.100
“Early Findings Link Key Teflon Chemical to Lower Birth Weight.” ABC News – http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/02/early_findings_.html
Environmental Working Group Website, “PFCs: Global Contaminants: PFCs in Animals Worldwide” – http://www.ewg.org/node/21749
John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “PFOA and PFOS Detected in Newborns,” – http://www.jhsph.edu/publichealthnews/press_releases/2007/goldman_pfoa_pfos.html
“Non-stick pan chemicals ‘may raise child cholesterol.’” BBC News – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11201956
Organic Consumers Association, “Study Shows DuPont’s Teflon Products Are Damaging Fetuses in the Womb” from Rachel’s Democracy & Health News – http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_6848.cfm
Ross, Brian et al, “Can Nonstick Make You Sick?” ABC News website – http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=124363
Ward, Ken Jr, “C8 exposure linked to ADHD in children.” West Virginia Gazette – http://wvgazette.com/News/201006160770