Teflon is used to coat many pans to make them non-stick. The problem that occurs is that the coating itself breaks apart and releases toxic gases at high temperatures. These gases have been linked to many diseases. Of them there are carcinogens, global pollutants and MFA, a lethal chemical at low doses to humans. At very high temperatures, the teflon breaks down into PFIB, a chemical war agent. Its fumes have also been known to kill hundreds of pet birds.
The problems with Teflon are the chemicals that are used to make it. Since 1984 and maybe before, DuPont, the producer of Teflon, knew that its production was linked to polymer fume fever, leukemia, liver damage in humans working in the factory and in test animals it caused leukemia, cancer, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction. The chemicals were found in the blood of workers and people exposed to the chemcials and ultimately there was a huge settlement paid by the company in 2004 when chemicals were found in West Virginia’s drinking water.
The major chemical that has been associated with Teflon and that the EPA wants to get rid of is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, also C8), which is linked to cancer, liver damage, immune system damage, growth defects and doesn’t break down in the environment. The EPA names it a “likely carcinogen”. It has also been found in blood of exposed individuals and stays there for 10 years.
Whether the Teflon in your kitchen is a problem is unclear. The biggest chemical issues are related to production, but some believe that these non-stick pans will still release toxins, especially at high temperatures, including trifluoracetic acid (TFA) and phosgene. There is even a name for their impact on humans: “Teflon Flu”. DuPont has agreed to stop the chemical PFOA from being released from its factory by 2015 but it will continue to make Teflon and, if toxins are released at high temperatures (and who never cooks on high?) then it can still negatively impact its consumers
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