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Is Teflon really all that bad for you?

GameGrrlGameGrrl Registered User
edited August 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey, one of my roommates is trying to get me to throw out all of my teflon cookware since she claims it's going to give me cancer. I've tried to look this up online, but all I'm getting are conflicting sources that say Teflon is harmless and that Teflon will kill me instantly if I even stare at it.

Can the sensible heads at H/A tell me or link me up to some more scientific sources on the effects of Teflon? Preferably studies not funded by the National Teflon In All Homes lobby?

GameGrrl on
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Posts

  • geckahngeckahn Registered User
    edited July 2009
    GameGrrl wrote: »
    Hey, one of my roommates is trying to get me to throw out all of my teflon cookware since she claims it's going to give me cancer. I've tried to look this up online, but all I'm getting are conflicting sources that say Teflon is harmless and that Teflon will kill me instantly if I even stare at it.

    Can the sensible heads at H/A tell me or link me up to some more scientific sources on the effects of Teflon? Preferably studies not funded by the National Teflon In All Homes lobby?

    Well, I believe they dont make teflon pans anymore because they were found to be carcinogenic or something. There's other ways to make non-stick pans though.

  • EriosErios Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    While I can't give anything conclusive from my iphone, it's probably less safe after it starts to melt at around 327 C. Before that it's probably significantly safer.

    Steam: erios23, Live: Coconut Flavor, Origin: erios2386.
  • japanjapan Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    If you leave a non-stick pan on a burner it can emit fumes that aren't that good for you, but not inherently carcinogenic. There are carcinogenic chemicals used in the production of PTFE, but they shouldn't be present in the finished product.

    Even if you get rid of the pans though, most of the joints in your plumbing are probably sealed with teflon (PTFE) tape.

  • GameGrrlGameGrrl Registered User
    edited July 2009
    Is there any way to tell if my non-stick pots/pans are made with teflon? Is it something that's still common in frying pans made in the past 5 years or so?

  • tsmvengytsmvengy Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    If your teflon pans are scratched up (from using metal utensils) or the coating is coming off you should not use them.

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  • KalTorakKalTorak Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Scratched up nonstick pans should be thrown out. Avoid using metal tools or utensils on them (stick to silicone, plastic, or wood) and keep them out of the dishwasher.

    Nonstick pans that are still intact can only be harmful if they reach very high heat levels. Don't stick an empty pan over your hottest burner and leave it for 10 minutes. Heating up a pan over medium-low for a minute or two before you cook an egg should be fine. Don't put your non-stick cookware into a 500 degree or hotter oven. Lower than that, it depends on the manufacturer (obviously don't put pans with plastic handles in the oven) - Calphalon pans are pretty sturdy and can survive 450 degrees.

  • japanjapan Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    GameGrrl wrote: »
    Is there any way to tell if my non-stick pots/pans are made with teflon? Is it something that's still common in frying pans made in the past 5 years or so?

    It's very common. It's pretty much the most common non-stick coating.

    To be honest I can't find anything that suggests teflon is dangerous, other than references to a chemical used in it's manufacture, and the fumes it gives off if overheated.

  • Durandal InfinityDurandal Infinity Registered User
    edited July 2009
    while I am a big fan of stainless (even heating and I can toss it in the oven) Teflon is A-OK and optimal for eggs, just make sure you are using silicone cookware and if you notice scratches or gouges, toss them in the recycle.

  • weather man bobweather man bob Registered User
    edited July 2009
    everything causes cancer these days, hell even a good ol fashioned bbq

    https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/cancer-risk-from-bbq-meat

    RS_1608-1.jpg
  • JavenJaven Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    This is a myth that sprung up when where were several reports of birds dying seemingly without reason when in the proximity of teflon cookware when it was placed on a burner. Since many fumes that are harmful to humans are are also harmful to birds (ie bringing canaries into coal mines etc) this freaked people out. The myth has been thoroughly debunked, however.

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  • Durandal InfinityDurandal Infinity Registered User
    edited July 2009
    yeah as stated. Id only be concerned if the enamel is scratched. IF this is the case eating the dupont coating is very bad, essentially your gnoshing on plastics.

    If you become super OCD Stainless and cast iron and a gem, though both require adding fat and cast iron requires a seasoning process before it really becomes usable.

    Stick with what you got unless they happen to be damaged and follow this http://housewares.about.com/od/cookware/tp/10ruinnonstick.htm

  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Like Javen says, it's bunk.

    If you scratch the coating off, you a) kind of wreck what you just cooked in it because it now has teflon flakes in it, and b) those uncoated parts are no longer non-stick, making it more of a pain to cook with.

    'course eating the plastic flakes isn't bad -- it's just, you know, eating plastic.

    You put oil on the stove and heat it way up until it starts to smoke, and that smoke is bad for you too, regardless of the pan its in. Tell your friend she should be more skeptical of what she reads.

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  • GameGrrlGameGrrl Registered User
    edited July 2009
    EggyToast wrote: »
    Like Javen says, it's bunk.

    If you scratch the coating off, you a) kind of wreck what you just cooked in it because it now has teflon flakes in it, and b) those uncoated parts are no longer non-stick, making it more of a pain to cook with.

    'course eating the plastic flakes isn't bad -- it's just, you know, eating plastic.

    You put oil on the stove and heat it way up until it starts to smoke, and that smoke is bad for you too, regardless of the pan its in. Tell your friend she should be more skeptical of what she reads.

    So if the scratched-off teflon flakes get into the food, that's not going to cause cancer? I'm pretty sure that's her main concern here, and why she wants to throw out my cookware set.

  • KalTorakKalTorak Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Are there scratches already in your cookware? If not then you're fine - just don't use metal utensils in there.

  • DmanDman Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    yeah my understanding is that they are bad if you burn the shit outta them but as eggy toast said already this would be bad regardless what pan you were cooking with, normal use is fine.

    I use a cast iron frying pan but mostly just because it's indestructible. :P

  • ascannerlightlyascannerlightly Registered User
    edited July 2009
    Erios wrote: »
    While I can't give anything conclusive from my iphone, it's probably less safe after it starts to melt at around 327 C. Before that it's probably significantly safer.
    what the hell are you cooking at 700 F??

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  • GameGrrlGameGrrl Registered User
    edited July 2009
    KalTorak wrote: »
    Are there scratches already in your cookware? If not then you're fine - just don't use metal utensils in there.

    A few, the surface is a little marred but it still seems to cook pretty well.

  • japanjapan Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    GameGrrl wrote: »
    EggyToast wrote: »
    Like Javen says, it's bunk.

    If you scratch the coating off, you a) kind of wreck what you just cooked in it because it now has teflon flakes in it, and b) those uncoated parts are no longer non-stick, making it more of a pain to cook with.

    'course eating the plastic flakes isn't bad -- it's just, you know, eating plastic.

    You put oil on the stove and heat it way up until it starts to smoke, and that smoke is bad for you too, regardless of the pan its in. Tell your friend she should be more skeptical of what she reads.

    So if the scratched-off teflon flakes get into the food, that's not going to cause cancer? I'm pretty sure that's her main concern here, and why she wants to throw out my cookware set.

    No. Teflon is pretty much entirely inert, and won't give you cancer.

  • MovitzMovitz Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Teflon is actually just a trademark for PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). All non-stick surfaces might not bear the name Teflon(tm) but it's basically the same stuff.

    Anyways, that stuff's so heavily fluorinated that it won't react with anything. This is why it won't react with your bacon and melt it to the surface. You could probably eat PTFE by the spoonful and not know you did it because it will just go straight through your system.

    The great stability might be a long-term environmental risk however since these sort of chemicals tend to build up in the ground water, as they won't break down. As an interesting comparison see Sucralose which we drink by the gallon without caring. (and for those of you that are chemically inclined, compare the Sucralose structure to DDT. I'll take Aspartame over that shit anyday)

    Oh, I might have derailed there. But...

    TL;DR It wont react with your food and therefore won't react with you
    [EDIT] Or, you know. What the cat-dude above me said

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  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    GameGrrl wrote: »
    So if the scratched-off teflon flakes get into the food, that's not going to cause cancer? I'm pretty sure that's her main concern here, and why she wants to throw out my cookware set.

    Are you cooking for this roommate?

    If you aren't, then tell her to fuck off and you'll cook with whatever you damned well please.
    If you are, then stop cooking for her, and see above.

    Alternatively, if you want to resolve the situation without being an ass, try the Canadian Cancer Society's page on the subject.

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  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    You could ask your roommate if she thinks swallowing gum will give you cancer... or stay inside you for 7 years.

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  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    EggyToast wrote: »
    You could ask your roommate if she thinks swallowing gum will give you cancer... or stay inside you for 7 years.

    Yes, if you decide to go with the "ass" approach I outlined, there's a horde of Dumb Shit People Believe that we can provide, if you choose to truly plumb the depths of her idiocy.

    "Having a fan blow on you when you sleep can kill you" I think was the dumbest one I ever heard.

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  • KalTorakKalTorak Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    EggyToast wrote: »
    You could ask your roommate if she thinks swallowing gum will give you cancer... or stay inside you for 7 years.

    I heard if you swallow too much gum


    you become gum.

  • KalTorakKalTorak Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    EggyToast wrote: »
    You could ask your roommate if she thinks swallowing gum will give you cancer... or stay inside you for 7 years.

    Yes, if you decide to go with the "ass" approach I outlined, there's a horde of Dumb Shit People Believe that we can provide, if you choose to truly plumb the depths of her idiocy.

    "Having a fan blow on you when you sleep can kill you" I think was the dumbest one I ever heard.

    what horribly mangled thread of logic did that one follow?

  • BarrakkethBarrakketh Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    If you become super OCD Stainless and cast iron and a gem, though both require adding fat and cast iron requires a seasoning process before it really becomes usable.

    A good non-stick alternative to teflon cookware would be hard anodized aluminum. It's non-stick, non-reactive, and you can still use metal utensils.

  • KillgrimageKillgrimage Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I can attest from first hand experience that overheated teflon does kill birds. Ten years ago I put my parents oven on "clean" and let it do it's thing overnight. The birds we had at the time were on the same floor as this. The next day I had three dead birds. We realized I'd left teflon pans in the oven while it was cleaning itself and I guess the cleaning involved making the oven super hot. Anyway, maybe it's not bad for people, but it's definately bad for birds.

  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    KalTorak wrote: »
    EggyToast wrote: »
    You could ask your roommate if she thinks swallowing gum will give you cancer... or stay inside you for 7 years.

    Yes, if you decide to go with the "ass" approach I outlined, there's a horde of Dumb Shit People Believe that we can provide, if you choose to truly plumb the depths of her idiocy.

    "Having a fan blow on you when you sleep can kill you" I think was the dumbest one I ever heard.

    what horribly mangled thread of logic did that one follow?

    Something involving interrupting your normal breathing rhythm, and a stiff neck was a warning sign that you almost died in your sleep.

    The worst part is that the person who told me this was neither drunk nor high at the time. Just stupid.

    Looking for a DX:HR OnLive code for my kid brother.
    Can trade TF2 items or whatever else you're interested in. PM me.
  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I can attest from first hand experience that overheated teflon does kill birds. Ten years ago I put my parents oven on "clean" and let it do it's thing overnight. The birds we had at the time were on the same floor as this. The next day I had three dead birds. We realized I'd left teflon pans in the oven while it was cleaning itself and I guess the cleaning involved making the oven super hot. Anyway, maybe it's not bad for people, but it's definately bad for birds.

    Toxic fumes != Cancer

    Looking for a DX:HR OnLive code for my kid brother.
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  • JavenJaven Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    If you're heating the pan with food in it, the heat has somewhere to go, so you're safe. You might have an issue if you leave the pan on super high heat with nothing in it for several hours. Other than that, though, you're safe.

    It doesn't give you cancer, though. If you were to be in a small room all day with melting teflon you might get flu-like symptoms for several days, though.

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  • KalTorakKalTorak Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Yeah, leaving any pans (not just teflon) in the oven during the cleaning cycle isn't a great idea. I'm not sure on the details, but the cleaning cycle basically superheats the oven and incinerates food gunk inside. You can stick your grill grates in there and run it if they need cleaning too. I remember reading an article about a guy trying to replicate NY pizza at home, and the only way he could get his oven hot enough to compare to a pizza oven was to cook the pizza in the cleaning cycle.

  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    EskimoDave wrote: »
    they both can equal illness/death

    So can a sufficiently hard kick in the junk, but that doesn't make it equal to either.

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  • gigEsmallsgigEsmalls __BANNED USERS
    edited July 2009
    If it kills birds thennnnnn it may not be good for you.

    big l wrote: »
    $5 says gigEsmalls never responds to this excellent post.
  • MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    It takes a hell of a lot more of anything to kill a human than it does a bird.

  • EskimoDaveEskimoDave Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    EskimoDave wrote: »
    they both can equal illness/death

    So can a sufficiently hard kick in the junk, but that doesn't make it equal to either.

    Thats something I want to avoid.

  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    gigEsmalls wrote: »
    If it kills birds thennnnnn it may not be good for you.

    When applied to statistically significant number of birds.

    But yeah, leaving pans while doing a cleaning cycle was really bad news. I'd worry about myself and the oven after that.

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  • JavenJaven Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Teflon will not give you cancer. End of story.

    Leaving it on high heat (in temperatures in excess of 500 degrees) with nothing else on it for hours at a time might make you sick.

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  • FightTestFightTest Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Everything gives you cancer. It's 2009, just live it up while waiting on your cancer.

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  • Gabriel_PittGabriel_Pitt (effective against the Irish) Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    KalTorak wrote: »
    EggyToast wrote: »
    You could ask your roommate if she thinks swallowing gum will give you cancer... or stay inside you for 7 years.

    Yes, if you decide to go with the "ass" approach I outlined, there's a horde of Dumb Shit People Believe that we can provide, if you choose to truly plumb the depths of her idiocy.

    "Having a fan blow on you when you sleep can kill you" I think was the dumbest one I ever heard.

    what horribly mangled thread of logic did that one follow?

    Something involving interrupting your normal breathing rhythm, and a stiff neck was a warning sign that you almost died in your sleep.

    The worst part is that the person who told me this was neither drunk nor high at the time. Just stupid.
    It's a very popular myth in South Korea. Like, every year, there will be a couple 'fan deaths' reported in the news, attributing it to either the fan 'blowing the air away from their mouth' or 'super-cooling the sleeper until they die of hypothermia.'

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  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    KalTorak wrote: »
    EggyToast wrote: »
    You could ask your roommate if she thinks swallowing gum will give you cancer... or stay inside you for 7 years.

    Yes, if you decide to go with the "ass" approach I outlined, there's a horde of Dumb Shit People Believe that we can provide, if you choose to truly plumb the depths of her idiocy.

    "Having a fan blow on you when you sleep can kill you" I think was the dumbest one I ever heard.

    what horribly mangled thread of logic did that one follow?

    Something involving interrupting your normal breathing rhythm, and a stiff neck was a warning sign that you almost died in your sleep.

    The worst part is that the person who told me this was neither drunk nor high at the time. Just stupid.
    It's a very popular myth in South Korea. Like, every year, there will be a couple 'fan deaths' reported in the news, attributing it to either the fan 'blowing the air away from their mouth' or 'super-cooling the sleeper until they die of hypothermia.'

    The girl was Korean.

    Great, now I might be been being "culturally insensitive" or something when I called her a stupid cunt.

    Looking for a DX:HR OnLive code for my kid brother.
    Can trade TF2 items or whatever else you're interested in. PM me.
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