Staying safe and healthy is a priority for everyone with a world in crisis and winter in full force. Because of this, we are all spending a lot more time at home. For many people, this means cooking at home and using the pots and pans that usually collect dust in the cupboard.
The cookware we use is a crucial part of staying safe and healthy, even when we haven't left our homes for days. It's hard to add another thing to worry about to the ever-growing list. However, modern non-stick pan surfaces can pose a risk to our health if we aren't careful about what material we purchase.
Teflon, PTFEs, PFOA's PFAS – What To Watch Our For…
Some of the cookware produced today contain harmful chemicals. Yes, it's true!
Teflon & PTFEs
Teflon is a chemical compound that reduces friction in the frying pan to prevent food from sticking and to make cleaning up the kitchen a little easier.
Teflon is one of the most prevalent brands on the market when it comes to cookware, so it should be a relief to know that it has not been classified as a carcinogen by any major health care organisations.
However, there is still a risk involved in using pans coated in PTFE. The “Teflon-flu” causes flu-like symptoms in humans who are exposed to the fumes produced when a Teflon pan heats up beyond 240 degrees Celsius. As the Teflon coating on the pan breaks down, it can release toxic gasses and chemicals in extreme heat, 360 degrees Celsius and above.
It's important to recognise that the teflon-flu is quite rare.
PFOA and PFAS
PTFE is not the only non-stick coating to look out for when it comes time to replace those old, well used pans.
Polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are chemicals used to resist heat, oil, grease, and water. They perfect for anyone seeking an easy kitchen clean-up.
Within the PFAS group of chemicals is perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which is similar to Teflon in its characteristics.
Many studies have been done on PFAS and the health risks discovered are enough to make me question what ends up in my dinner every night. Ingesting PFAS can result in a higher risk of developing tumours throughout the body.
PFOA and PTFE in particular have been linked to cancer in laboratory studies.
While it is far more likely that the people who work to manufacture these products experience adverse health effects, those using them should be cautious to maintain good cleaning and storage practices to prevent the breakdown of their non-stick cookware.
What Frying Pan Surfaces Are Safe To Use?
The good news is there are plenty of great frying pan alternatives on the market that truly are healthy and safe for our families.
Anodized aluminum, ceramic, and cast-iron, for example, are safe, accessible materials to consider when shopping for pots and pans.
Cast-iron, in fact, can help increase the amount of iron in our diets, enriching our food and fortifying the blood. Untreated aluminum has been linked to instances of Alzheimer's, but only in high doses.
Hardening the aluminum through anodisation reduces this risk significantly and prevents the aluminum surface from oxidising during cooking.
Ceramic pans have recently become more popular to cook with due to their eco-friendly nature. None of the chemicals listed above are used in the production of ceramic cookware, yet these items do just as well in the easy clean-up, less mess test. Ceramic coated cookware does not release the harmful gasses that pans coated in PFAS do, making them more desirable in the age of wellness in which we live.
Overall, it is important to recognise that too much of anything is likely to harm us more than help us. My personal preference is to use anodised aluminium frying pans however I also love my cast-iron and ceramic pans both for personal use and in the restaurant.