Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Goodbye Teflon!

Hey everybody, time to get a little Erin Brockovich here as I talk about Teflon. Pretty great right, non-stick cookware-what could be bad about that? Well, in some of the "green books" I've been reading, I keep coming across information about some dangers that are lurking in these "non-stick pans". One of the dangers is something called: PTFE (or in science world: polytetrafluoroetheylene) this is the synthetic chemical used to give pans their non-stick coating, primarily found in Teflon. A little acronym I made up to help me remember PTFE is Pans That Fume Everywhere! As if the name doesn't sound toxic enough, the dangerous part seems to come from the fumes released as the pans are heated to high temperatures (which usually happens when they're used for cooking!). Another toxic buddy in these Teflon pans is: PFOA, (or in the science world: perfluoroctanoic acid), this is another chemical used in the manufacturing process of making non-stick, stain-resistant surfaces.

This toxic party keeps going from here in how studies have found that the fumes from PTFE can kill pet birds and cause flu-like symptoms in humans (called, "Teflon Flu"). On top of that PFOA can cause cancer, liver damage, growth defects, as well as impairing the immune system. Pretty crazy right?! I don't know about you, but I watch what I eat, take my vitamins, and exercise all so I can stay healthy, the last thing I need is for my pots and pans to be making me sick! Now I don't have any pet birds, but what about my pet dogs? Could it affect them? I'm not sure. I know this sounds kind of far-fetched, but the science is out there, click here to read more from the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating consumers on a variety of health and environmental issues. Another resource can be found here at Healthy Child Healthy World, another non-profit organization, about the dangers of PFOA.

So now that we know the scary facts about non-stick cookware, what can you do about it?

1. If you've got no way to replace the pots and pans, you could take precautions like keeping your cooking temps low, using your exhaust fan, and keeping pet birds, if you have them, out of the kitchen. 

2. You could gradually replace one or two non-stick cookware pieces at a time. This is what I did, because as you can see to the right, we had this one big ol' skillet pan that we used for tons of stuff, but you can see the scratches in the non-stick coating...yikes! TOXIC! This pan was the first to go, out with the Teflon, in with the cast iron!

Cast iron is an amazing multi-purpose pan! It's been around for ages and when purchased, will last for many years to come. I was a little scared about using cast iron in the beginning, because it was different from pans I've used in the past. But now I love it! We use it for everything from stir-frys to pancakes, and even veggie burgers, which my hubby is cooking on it right now- yum!

Here's some info about it: For starters, the cast iron pan is heavy- but you get used to it, and it can double for a quick little arm workout! Next, don't get too worried about the talk of "seasoning" that is usually mentioned when using these pans. It's simple, buy a cast-iron pan that is pre-seasoned and after you're done cooking and cleaning it, just add a little oil to it too keep it "seasoned". Last, be sure never to use soap on your cast iron when cleaning because it will mess up the "seasoning". I just use water and a dish scrubbing brush.

Did you know one more benefit of cast iron, aside from NOT being TOXIC, is that it can add trace amounts of iron to your diet, which is never a bad thing for a vegan like myself! I got my cast iron pan from Bed, Bath, and Beyond for about $25 (it was the Emeril kind), but here's a good one on as well for $18.

3. Next step, continue to gradually replace other pots and pans if you can. See to the left that lovely box of shiny pots and pans, well, I've had my eye on it for quite a while at Wal-Mart, and I finally broke down and bought it. Why did I want it so much you ask? Because it's stainless steel, pretty much the only other "safe" type of pan out there, other than cast iron. This 10 pc. set cost about $90 or so, (here is a similar one on and I'm so glad I got it because I was able to clear out the rest of my Teflon-coated pans and now I don't have to worry about what's leaching into the food I'm cooking!

Here's my box of old pots and long Teflon! I'm not going to miss you! Alright, alright time for me to get off my soap box about Teflon! Do you guys have any other alternative pots or pans that you use instead of Teflon? I'm looking into getting a wok next, but it will definitely be Teflon-free one! Let me know your thoughts!


  1. Ashley,

    I just started reading your blog, but from what I've seen, I think we're a lot alike! I am a straight up recycling nerd :)

    As far as teflon goes, I'm in college and I take whatever hand me downs I can get from my parents! My mom already taught me that scratched teflon is toxic, so I know to throw those out, and I read that the high heat only really affects the pans when they are heated without food in them. Of course, I haven't done *much* reading.

    When I first moved out, my mom bought me an eco-friendly/teflon-free non-stick pan, made out of ceramic or something like that. It sounds like a great alternative, but my particular pan's non-stick powers seemed to fade very quickly.

    Of course I strive to eliminate all potential toxins from my life, but as of now I'm taking what I can get.

  2. kitty,
    I'm a total recycling nerd too! We can be friends! ( : Sounds like the one your mom bought you is a cool alternative (if only it would keep up it's non-stick)! I can totally relate to what you're going through, with taking what you can get with the pans. When I found out that Teflon wasn't so great I was like...okay let me just drop $300 to buy all new pans, where am I going to come up with that kind of money! But doing just a pan at a time helped me.

    Also, after buying some of my new pans I found these pans at my local health food store and they seem a little cheaper and still eco-friendly, wish I would have known about them sooner: and here's a link to their products on amazon:

    Look forward to blogging with you more fellow recycling nerd! ( :

  3. Sorry about all of my comments at once...I'm catching up on my reading. :) The whole nonstick pan thing has definitely been an issue for me. I got rid of all of mine and tried using only stainless steel and cast iron - and it's hard for me! I'm so scatterbrained it's hard to stand there and monitor the stainless steel pan so it won't stick. And the cast iron - cleaning it is hard for me, and I've had them rust...I think the problem is ME, not the pan. :) So I ended up buying one non-stick pan to use for essentials, like pancakes, which didn't work for me in the other pan.'ve inspired me. I really need to get better with my pans!

  4. Hey, no worries about all the comments, I love comments on my blog, I feel like people are actually reading what I write...LOL! ( : Yes, cleaning the alternative pans is not the fun part, I totally agree about that. My husband and I have a rule, whoever does the cooking doesn't have to clean the castiron! Usually, I end up cleaning the castiron, stainless, and glass (when we do oven baking) and I really have to make myself do it right after dinner's done, otherwise it seems to just get worse! Sometimes it's a toss up to me...less chemicals but more work vs. more chemicals and less work??!! Currently we don't have any kids, so I have some extra time to stand and scrub pans, but I can see how it may get difficult in the future!


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