Non-Stick Addict

I’m addicted to Teflon. I’m trying to give up my habit, but it is a struggle. While cleaning out my cupboards to make room for a new, non-Teflon wok, I removed all my non-stick pans. For the last couple weeks, I’ve been using stainless steel or glass frying pans. I feel like I’m learning to cook all over again as even the heat is different. I burnt my popcorn to a crisp the other night. I spent a very long time scrubbing with scouring pads and finally had to scrape the black bits off with a knife. I almost ran to the giveaway bag to retrieve my pans. Almost. But the chemicals used to make non-stick and stain-resistant products like Teflon, Scotchgard, Gore-Tex and Stainmaster are linked to a host of diseases including cancer. Not only are these perfluoronated compounds being found in the outer environment they are also being found in the bloodstreams of animals and humans, including babies. Studies by the Environmental Working Group found that mothers are passing their industrial pollution to their fetuses. They even found Teflon in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. The tested babies had around two hundred known toxins in their blood at birth including Teflon, mercury, fire retardants and various pesticides.

Even the US Environmental Protection Agency has deemed the chemical a likely carcinogen, but instead of banning it, they just nicely asked companies like DuPont and 3M to make their products less likely to break down and they have until 2015 to do so.

All of us have toxic chemicals and pesticides in our bodies, even if we eat a pure organic diet and live on an island. For example, renowned BC wildlife artist, Robert Bateman, was part of a 2005 Canadian study; researchers found forty-eight different pesticides in his body, deemed the “body burden” of the average Canadian. The eighty-eight chemicals researchers tested for are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. The highest number of chemicals was found in a Cree chief from Northern Quebec, more evidence that toxic heavy metals are accumulating in Canada’s north. Teflon has been found in Arctic Polar bears and marine life as well.

Gregor Robertson, the Mayor of Vancouver and co-founder of Happy Planet, a successful organic juice company, participated in another study. He was shocked with the results; over thirty toxins were found in his teenage kids who were raised on a farm eating only organic food. They even had traces of PCBs, chemicals banned before they were born.

With little government oversight, it’s up to us to stop buying these harmful products. So I really am trying to kick my Teflon habit, even if the other pots and pans are more work and make me look like a bad cook. Problem is, I still have the temptation in my apartment. I have no idea how to get rid of these pans. I don’t want to spread the harm by passing them on to someone else. There are no recycling programs, except in Ann Arbor according to one on-line article. The same author also suggested sandblasting the Teflon off the pans. Teflon sounds like a prime candidate for an extended producer responsibility program. How about it DuPont?

4 Replies to “Non-Stick Addict

  1. Hey spring,
    A few comments:
    did I read that correctly? Did you say that companies need to break down the chemicals more slowly? Wouldn’t that increase their negative impact on living organism?
    I feel like sandblasting would be a bad idea in terms of removing Teflon from your life. Especially if it is everyday people just sandblasting the pots and pans, as I feel like you would be dispersing the Teflon into the environment, and as well it seems like it’s very hard to minimize your exposure as long as Teflon is still being used by your neighbors and friends.
    Have you looked into cast iron or enamel implements? I would highly skeptical of cast iron skillets until I started using, and if you take care of it well it’s not actually that much more work…

    1. Hi Joming,

      No, that was not my intended meaning. The problem is that when the product breaks down (as they eventually will, from high heat, wear and tear, etc), the chemicals persist in the environment. 3M has been phasing out the chemical in their Scotchgard products, but who knows if the replacement will be any better. Bottom line, don’t buy products that use this non-stick chemical.

  2. Hi Spring! Funny you should write about this and post it the same day I just decided to gift an extra pan I have to a friend still using Teflon….
    Cat iron, my friend. Good ol’ seasoned cast iron. oil a new one up, and bake the whole thing in the oven a while. Lovely hard no-stick coating lasts forever so long as you don’t wash it with soap. Just wipe it out with a rag and water, easy. Stay healthy!

  3. Darn! I reposted that verbatim from Facebook, even down to the “Cat” iron spelling mistake. Rats. I mean “Cast” iron!

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