An essential part of maintaining good health is doing plenty of cooking at home, so we can control and select our own ingredients and food choices. But what cook doesn’t love their collection of non-stick cookware? Well, what if I told you those conveniences can be hazardous to our health?
(This is the part where we all sigh and our shoulders droop a little, I know!)
I just learned that non-stick pans can actually omit toxic fumes when they get too hot. Yes, throw another log on the “disappointment fire”! It seems these aluminum pans, coated in Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE (also known as Teflon), can emit fumes when subjected to high heat. Inhaling these fumes can actually cause flu-like symptoms. And although the long-term effects haven’t been extensively studied, we do know that exposure to PTFE can create problems like low birth-weight babies, thyroid and liver issues, elevated cholesterol levels, as well as weakened immune systems.
(A few years ago I remember one of my non-stick pans starting to flake away. I tossed it out but, surprisingly, the flakes are actually inert.)
The better options for cookwares are actually stainless steel for stove-top cooking and glass bakeware for the oven. Cast iron is another safe choice. Unless you’re willing to replace all of your non-stick cookware, you can feel a little “stuck”, but there are guidelines (compliments of EWG) to lessen your exposure:
- Cook at lower temperatures and don’t pre-heat your pans at high temps. It may take a little extra time, but it’s worth it.
- Never bake at over 500 degrees (some research even says not over 450 degrees).
- Use your exhaust fan.
- (A little side note too: these fumes are highly toxic to birds, so keep your feathered friends far from the kitchen.)
If you’re like me, you’re probably not inclined or prepared to replace all of your non-stick cookware, but just use these tips to play it safe and the next time you’re in a position to buy replacements, make the wiser choices … and then invest in some good scrubbers!