For months, Cathy and I have become more and more concerned with our pans. Two of our pans are coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), more commonly known as Teflon, which makes for great nonstick cookware, but not necessarily for our bodies and the environment.
PTFE can be toxic depending on how we use our cookware. While PFTE is generally stable and non-toxic, it begins to degrade when cooking temperatures reach about 260 degrees C (500 degrees F); if temperatures exceed 350 degrees C (660 degrees F), it decomposes, and fumes are then released into the air. These fumes can kill birds; they can also cause flu-like symptoms in humans.
Nonstick pans are also lethal to the environment. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is used to manufacture the Teflon used in nonstick pans. According to Wikipedia, PFOA is a “toxicant and carcinogen in animals, persistent in the environment, and detected in the blood of general populations in the low parts per billion range.” It has been linked to infertility, birth defects, increased cancer rates, changes to lipid levels, the immune system, and liver.” DuPont, Teflon manufacturer, says there is no way at the present to manufacture Teflon without PFOA.
Apparently, international legislation would like to see nonstick pans completely phased out by 2015. If such is the case, then we’d better get used to dealing with other options. What options do we therefore have? Believe it or not, it may not be such a bad idea to use stainless steel. Some people are averse to using stainless steel, owing primarily to the difficulty of the cleaning process, but I’d much rather go with a tested conductor of heat that doesn’t release anything into my body or the atmosphere than with a nonstick that could potentially trigger my body into cancer production overdrive. (Read Is stainless steel good for you? or Stainless steel is great in any kitchen; read Season your pans for non-stick cooking for an opposite view.)
There are other “generic” options as well, including cast iron, aluminum, and copper. I’m not too hot on the idea of using most of these, though, because based on what I’ve read, once these cookware reach certain temperatures, there are chemicals or elements that can leach into your food or get released into the air.
Another option would be to try other cookware that don’t use Teflon. GreenPan is one such option. I’ve seen advertisements for it on the Lifestyle Network – or was it Channel 58 AFC? – for months. I also saw an Eco-Pan at the Landmark TriNoma. It looks eerily similar to the GreenPan, but without much literature about the products online – save for the Multiply page to which I’ve linked – I can’t offer much other information.
This afternoon, Cathy and I bought a GreenPan (the 28cm New York, whose handle allows for the pan to be used in baking, how awesome). According to the literature, it is PTFE- and PFOA-free; production of the pan emits up to 60% less carbon than Teflon-coated pans; and the packaging is made with recycled material, designed to be easier for recycling. It conducts heat so well that it takes less energy and heat to cook one’s meals. Cleanup is easy and convenient, and it’s guaranteed for two years. (Use Messy Bessy Ecofriendly Dishwashing Liquid, or make your own! There’s a great recipe here; all ingredients, including pure glycerine, are available at SM supermarkets.)
It was a heckuva lot more expensive than I would’ve imagined, but I feel much better for it. Better to spend a little more now and be safe than sorry in the long run, I always say. Okay, I don’t always say that – actually, I never say that – but if it’s good for my family and the environment, it’s worth the investment.