“Let the Nonsense Slide Off”

teflon potSo you want to buy a “green” pot or pan to avoid those nasty chemicals associated with “synthetic” non-stick coatings? They’re available. A line of non-stick pots and pans is being advertised as having a “natural ceramic” coating that is free of PFOA and PTFE, releases no “toxins,” and is safe for birds. Natural ceramic? Really? I’m not aware of any trees bearing ceramic fruits or animals running around with ceramic fur or birds laying ceramic eggs. Ceramics are manufactured materials, basically made by heating various inorganic, non-metallic substances to a high temperature. There’s a lot of technology and a lot of chemistry involved in formulating the polymeric ceramic coating that is applied to a pan. Such a coating is no less synthetic than the Teflon coating it purports to excel. PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) is a processing chemical used to make PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene.) Teflon is just DuPont’s brand of PTFE. PFOA has been somewhat controversial mainly because of its persistence in the environment and DuPont has pledged to phase out its use by 2015. They have already phased it out from the production of coatings for pots and pans so that Teflon cookware has no PFOA. Actually, it never had more than trace residues from the manufacturing process. As far as the claims of overheated PTFE being harmful to birds because of release of PFOA, well, not much of an issue. This claim is repeated ad nauseum without evidence. Birds are especially sensitive to vapours and heating anything to a high temperature will release gases that can harm birds. The real question is whether the “green” cookware performs as well as PTFE. Comparative trials show that PTFE is more durable than ceramic coatings and has superior non-stick properties. I’m not suggesting that the ceramic coatings are unsafe, they are fine. But implying that they are “greener,” “healthier” or more “natural” than Teflon amounts to greenwashing and feeds the epidemic of chemophobia. Either ceramic or PTFE coatings will reduce the chance of charring food…a phenomenon that produces some “natural” chemicals that really do have nasty properties.
Student demonstrators may want to avoid non-stick pots and pans, they do not make as much noise as the alternatives.

Joe Schwarcz

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