Will the accusations slide off as easily as my scrambled eggs?
A few years ago my family began switching to cast iron pans. This was a response to articles they read in magazines sounding the alarm that Teflon is nasty, poisonous stuff. This news reached me too late to return the beautiful set of non-stick pots and pans we got as a wedding gift, so I have more or less put my head in the sand and gone about my cooking as usual.
No more. Today I dove into the wonderful world of the internet to see what I could find, which, it turns out, is rather confusing. The first thing I learned is that a chemical used to make Teflon, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), really is nasty. There have been lawsuits filed, and settled out of court, against DuPont by their workers, who have unusually high occurrences of cancer in their midst. The fact that DuPont has settled, and made efforts to control PFOA emissions says to me that they know PFOA is bad for humans, though they have yet to say as much publicly.
The second thing I learned is that most of us have PFOA in our bodies. A study done by John Hopkins University in Baltimore found that 100% of local newborns have PFOA in their bloods. By some estimates it can be found in the blood of 90 – 95% of Americans. This, in and of itself, doesn’t scare me too much. Even though the chemical is not naturally occurring, it has only been shown to be carcinogenic if a person is exposed to high amounts of it (say, you work for DuPont, or you regularly heat your Teflon to over 600) but it does get one to thinking. Should I be worried?
The most compelling data I have found so far comes from the scientists at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Morgantown, West Virginia. They found that exposure to PFOA may prime the body to overreact to allergens, which may be one reason for the increase in asthma in children over the past twenty years. Interesting.
To be on the safe side, some suggest switching your Teflon pans for cast iron. Most who use cast iron pans (including my family) swear by them, saying that they cook more evenly, last longer, and that food even tastes better. Personally, I’ve never been quite sure how to take care of one, but I did find this site, that goes over everything a person could possibly need to know about a pan.
I don’t think I will toss my non-stick pans in the trash just yet (I can’t bare to throw out nice things that are in good condition), but in the mean time I will keep an eye out for some good cast iron at a decent price. A tasty bargain might help me make the transition.