Many of us use non-stick Teflon cookware and don’t think twice about it. Sure it chips and scratches, but we never think that’s a big deal. However, there is growing evidence that this non-stick cookware can be posing serious risks to your own health as well as the health of your loved ones.
Why so dangerous?
Cookware that is treated with Teflon (thus, making it non-stick) is made of a toxic combination of chemicals, such as PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid. When heated to high temperatures, which usually happens when you cook, this cookware begins to release these chemicals and carcinogens into the air. If heated high enough, Teflon cookware will actually release a dangerous chemical nerve agent referred to as PFIB.
What are the risks of using non-stick Cookware?
It is undeniable that Teflon cookware releases harmful chemicals into the air. This is proven by the fact that hundreds of pet canaries are killed or made seriously ill by the toxins released from non-stick cookware. Much as these canaries warned miners of poor air quality, these same birds are warning us about the air quality as a result of cooking with Teflon. If these toxic fumes can kill a bird so quickly, this is not something you want yourself or your family to be breathing in.
Five cocatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) died within 30 minutes following exposure to fumes from a frying pan coated with the “non-stick” plastic polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) that had accidentally overheated. Within an hour the owner developed symptoms of “polymer fume fever” but recovered in the next 24 hours. Clinical signs and post mortem lesions of the cockatiels are described and reference is made to the unusual susceptibility of parakeets to the pyrolysis products of frying pans coated with PTFE. 
Humans also are physically affected by Teflon fumes. Inhaling the toxins and chemicals released by heating a Teflon pan to just 400 degrees can cause many flu-like symptoms to occur. In addition, the pans naturally chip and flake with age, which releases even more contaminants into the food that is being prepared on this cookware. It is no surprise, then, that many ailing individuals have trace amounts of these harmful chemicals and toxins in their bloodstream regularly.
What can you do?
It’s time to get rid of all non-stick cookware and trade in for a healthier and safer version.
- For baking, clay and glass cookware are your best options.
- Copper options are very popular among professional chefs and do not pose any serious health hazards.
- Stainless steel is another excellent option for chemical-free cooking.
- If you like using them and can afford them, cast iron pots and pans are another excellent option. Like non-stick cookware, cast iron is easy to clean, but unlike the non-stick cookware, cast iron cookware only gets better with time and never threatens your air or food quality.
Now that you know the dangers of cooking with Teflon non-stick cookware, it is time to update your pots and pans. Avoid non-stick at all costs, and opt for one of the safer alternatives mentioned above. Then spread the word and tell everyone you know about the danger of non-stick cookware, especially if they have a pet bird!
1. Blandford TB, Seamon PJ, Hughes R, Pattison M, Wilderspin MP. 1975. A case of polytetrafluoroethylene poisoning in cockatiels accompanied by polymer fume fever in the owner. Vet Rec 1975 Feb 22;96(8):175-8.