Turning toxic

Cookware coated with a Teflon coating reaches temperatures that produce toxic particles and fumes more quickly than coating maker DuPont has admitted, according to new research by the Environmental Working Group.

Cookware coated with Teflon and similar non-stick coatings reach temperatures that produce toxic particles and fumes more quickly than coating maker DuPont has admitted, according to new research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The watchdog research organisation tested coated pans to find that in two to five minutes on a typical household stove, the pans reach temperatures that produce toxins that even DuPont acknowledges kill hundreds of pet birds each year and cause flu-like, ‘polymer fever’ in humans.

Scientific journals, veterinarians and bird owners have long documented the phenomenon of Teflon-related bird deaths. However, EWG’s findings undercut DuPont’s repeated assurances to customers that the pans do not reach toxic temperatures under normal use. The Group also released the first-ever profile of the pan toxins based on a review of over 20 peer-reviewed scientific journal studies over the last 50 years.

The long-term human health effects from the pans’ toxins are unknown, but there are mounting health concerns about Teflon-related chemicals. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched the largest scientific review in the Agency’s history of the toxicity of a key Teflon ingredient, PFOA, which is one of the toxins produced from the heated pans. DuPont is also under federal investigation for possibly illegally withholding key health studies regarding the Teflon chemical.

The company was also sanctioned by a West Virginia court three weeks ago because a company scientist destroyed evidence from health research on PFOA.

Dr. Jennifer Klein, a chemist with EWG, conducted and oversaw a test in which a Teflon-coated pan’s temperature was measured using a precision infrared thermometer.

‘Our simple test showed DuPont is wrong when they tell customers the pans won’t degrade except under extreme misuse. Actually, the pans started emitting toxic particles and chemicals quite quickly at temperatures within normal use on a typical stovetop. Shouldn’t the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) be taking a more serious look at these products?’

The EWG is asking the CPSC to label the coated cookware with a warning about dangers to pet birds and possible human health effects.