Study Warns of Health Risk from Nonstick Cookware

Progressive Health
Summer 2003

An environmental research organization is urging the federal government to put warning labels on cookware coated with Teflon and similar nonstick coatings. A new study released in May by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) finds that this cookware more quickly reaches temperatures that produce toxic particles and fumes than chemical giant and Teflon manufacturer DuPont has previously admitted.

EWG tested coated pans and determined that in two to five minutes on a typical household stove, the pans reach temperatures that produce toxins that DuPont has acknowledged kill hundreds of pet birds each year and c ause the flu like "polymer fever" in humans.

"Our simple test showed DuPont is wrong when they tell customers the pans won't degrade except under extreme misuse," said Dr. Jennifer Klein, a chemist with EWG. "Actually, the pans started emitting toxic particles and chemicals quite quickly at temperatures within normal use on a typical stovetop."

The study's findings prompted EWG to send a petition to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) asking the federal safety board to label the coated cookware with a warning about dangers to pet birds and possible human health effects. There have been no studies on the long term effects of Teflon and similar coatings to humans, but DuPont has acknowledged that pans heated to some 460 degrees Fahrenheit release toxic particles that can kill birds. The company contends that pans heated under 500 degrees have no risks to humans because the coating stays intact at this temperature and company officials say they do not believe consumers often heat pans above this temperature. EWG's findings strongly dispute this as its tests show that cookware exceeds these temperatures and turns toxic through the common act of preheating a pan on a burner set on high.

EWG's study determined that, at 680 degrees Fahrenheit, Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses.


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