Are Teflon Pans Dangerous?

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If heated at too high a temperature, nonstick cookware or Teflon can release chemicals that are detrimental to health.

Teflon is actually the brand name of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which is a man-made chemical. First introduced in the 1940s, these chemicals are then used in various equipment because they have many advantages, two of which are stable because they do not react with other chemicals and are able to form an anti-scratch surface. In addition, because it is nonstick, it is suitable for use as cooking utensils.

PFOA in Cooking Tools

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or also called C8 is a man-made chemical used in the process of making Teflon. The nonstick ingredients found in this cookware are also found on nonstick packages such as fast food packages or popcorn cooked in a microwave.

In addition, PFOA is also formed accidentally from the production of fluorotelomers and products processed with fluorotelomers. The material applied to this food packaging paper is lipophobic which can prevent oil from fatty foods from seeping into it. This fluorotelomers layer is also found in candy wrappers or pizza packaging.

PFOA is a concern because this material can settle in the human body in the long run. This ingredient is usually found in low levels in food and drinking water.

Research tested on animals shows that PFOA exposure can increase the risk of getting tumors in certain body parts, such as the mammary glands, pancreas, liver, and testes. Meanwhile, human studies have found that blood serum samples containing PFOA run the risk associated with the condition:

  • Infertility.
  • Reduced sperm quality.
  • Increased likelihood of thyroid disorders.
  • Increased risk of hyperactivity (ADHD).
  • Disrupt endocrine work in forming breast maturity in adolescents.
  • Decreasing quality of fetal growth.
  • Increased risk of prostate disorders, cancer of the liver, pancreas and bladder.

Research on the effects of PFOA on humans is also carried out on people who are specifically working in the environment exposed to these chemicals. Research suggests that these workers are more at risk of developing kidney, bladder and testicular cancer.

A well-known environmental protection agency classifies PFOA in suggestive groups as carcinogens (causing cancer) and there is insufficient evidence to assess carcinogenic potential in humans.

However, it is better to limit exposure to these chemicals in the following ways:

  • Avoid heating nonstick cookers in temperatures too high (above 260 degrees Celsius). Use a minimum temperature that can be used to process food.
  • If possible, when cooking, place the blowing fan towards the nonstick cookware.
  • If you keep birds, place the cage away from the kitchen to avoid being exposed to gas from heating nonstick cookware.
  • Reduce consumption of popcorn processed with microwave and fast food.
  • Cookware made of cast iron is a good alternative if you decide to stop using nonstick cookware.

Research on PFOA has not yet received significant results because it is still classified as limited in terms of quality and volume. However, safeguarding yourself from these risky chemicals in the above ways is expected to prevent or at least reduce the risk that may arise.

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