Friday, October 17, 2008

Green nonstick cookware choices

We recently did a blog on the nasty chemicals—PFOA and PTFE, specifically, linked to thyroid disruption and cancer—found in conventional nonstick cookware and in the bodies of the general American population. Many of our readers weighed in with questions and comments of their own, which we address here.

Thermolon Update

We previously stated that silicone cookware and therefore the new GreenPan, which contains silicone, have additional ingredients that aren’t listed on the label, which always makes us a little nervous. Since then, we’ve found out more. GreenPan is made of oxygen, silicone, carbon, aluminum, and titanium. A representative from the company that invented Thermolon, the nonstick coating on GreenPans, told us: “Silicone (Si) is not on the list of ingredients of Thermolon. Instead, silicone is in combination with other elements to form a harmless ceramic material…”

O.K., whatever. At least ceramic coatings generally don’t evaporate or leach. More importantly, GreenPan promises that its ceramics are PFOA- and PTFE-free; the company commissioned a few third-party studies, two from universities in both Hong Kong and Europe, which confirmed their coating’s lack of PFOA or PTFE. One study said that the GreenPan also consumes less energy and produces less carbon in the production process than conventional nonstick cookware.

So while we’d always prefer to see results of independent third-party tests (such as those by Consumer Reports, Environmental Working Group or certifiers such as Green Seal or Cradle to Cradle), rather than tests a company has paid for themselves, we think GreenPan is clearly a safer and greener alternative to conventional nonstick coatings.

What about other cookware technology touted as PFOA-free?

This can be greenwashing. Because consumers are now aware that PFOA is a carcinogen and is present in their pans, companies are scrambling to market new non-PFOA cookware. But here’s the question: what’s replacing the PFOA?

According to the Environmental Working Group's extensive report on PFOA replacements, the Food and Drug Administration approved eight new fluorochemicals between 2005 and 2007 intended to replace PFOA-based food packaging and pans. But there was no third-party certification or public assessment of the safety of these new chemicals. At least one—perfluorohexanoic acid (also called PFHxA or C6)—is known to be persistent in the environment, cross over from a mother to her unborn fetus, and may be more toxic to aquatic organisms than PFOA.

The greenwashing of the cookware industry is intense. According to our source at GreenPan, many companies are coating their nonstick pans with PTFE, but then adding small ceramic particles. They tout their products as PFOA-free, ceramic-coated, which sounds safe to consumers worried about toxics in their cookware, when in reality they may be no better than the old PFOA-coated models.

I have Emerilware Hard Anodized Pans and their website says they don’t used PFOAs to make the nonstick. Is there another toxic chemical they use instead?

Anodized pans are sometimes listed separately from the nonstick products on cookware websites, leading one to believe that anodized pans are different and perhaps better than conventional nonstick cookware. We were unable to contact the makers of Emerilware, so we called the popular cookware company Calphalon and inquired about their anodized pans. They confirmed that either PFOA or PTFE is present in the coating. So anodized pans don’t seem to be a safe alternative to conventional nonstick.

Safer Cookware Alternatives

Lodge Iron cast iron cookware: They come preseasoned now!

Le Creuset enamel cookware:

Calphalon stainless steel:

Crate & Barrel’s Mario Batali enamel:


Previous GreenerPenny blog:

EPA PFOA warnings:

PFOA in general population:

Environmental Working Group’s report:

By Island Girl

Thank you. Please keep your questions and comments coming, and tell your friends to visit


Robert said...

Anodizing aluminum pans produces a very hard surface with no toxins. Non stick coatings are applied on top and this is where the controversy is.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for these! I've been trying to convince my husband it's time to get rid of the old non stick pan, but he was loving the nonstick part, so now we have some options for alternatives!
I do have one question - if silicone is no good for baking, what DO you recommend? I've used parchment paper for years simply because of the convenience factor, but I was going to switch to a higher quality reusable silicone sheet, but now I'm not sure... are there ANY silicone brands that can be vouched for? How can I make cookies safely but without worrying about sticking now? (Especially because we have to bake egg-free due to allergies, so cohesion is often a problem!)

mindy said...

I love parchment paper, myself. Alas, most parchment papers sold today are silicone coated! I wish we could recommend a specific silicone baking mat brand, but we haven't been able to find any tests assuring that they don't leach chemicals. Still, if you don't bake at temperatures higher than 400 degrees, at least the silicone isn't likely to melt. For baking cookies, I use an ungreased, unlined stainless cookie sheet; the butter in the cookies keeps them from sticking. For pies and cakes, I use traditional glazed ceramic or heatproof Pyrex glass baking dishes. I confess to a reliance on parchment paper to line the bottom of cake pans or when baking a tart directly on a cookie sheet. I figure, a little bit won't harm us.

Don said...

THERE IS NO SILICONE IN THERMALON! It contains SILICON, an element, not SILICONE, a man-made complex compound of several elements. Somebody at National Geographic goofed and added the "E," and the error has reverberated through the web.

Silicon, when combined with oxygen, is sand. Silicon dioxide. In Thermalon, silicon is combined with oxygen and several other elements, then fired at high heat to make a ceramic. Humans have cooked in ceramics since before recorded history.

Frankly I feel safer eating from a ceramic-coated pan than from an iron one - I already get enough iron from other sources.

We just bought a set of GreenPan pans and so far we love them.

Anonymous said...

do you know if the new iittala ceramic coated nonstick pans safe? I just bought one but afraid to use it!

Anonymous said...

silicone sealant
polysulfide sealant
butyl sealant

C said...

Silicone (a compound), and silicon (Si, an element) are two different things. Silicone is used in breast implants and soft rubbery pan handles. Silicon is not the same. Learn how to read more carefully.

adamswifey said...

for cookies and baking - i recommend cooking with a pizza stone, or baking stone. they seem to work better than any cookie sheet and are pretty much naturally nonstick.

Hendrik said...

Anodized pans are sometimes listed separately from the nonstick ...

Kaspar said...

We previously stated that silicone cookware and therefore the new ...