In this economy, we’re all motivated to save money and eat healthier by cooking more at home. And a new pot or pan can be a nice motivator. But we feel distinctly unmotivated by non-stick cookware manufactured with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA or C8 in industry terms), which is used to make the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coating that is so magically unstickable. Problem is, the chemicals stick to us. And, as the Environmental Working Group reports, the EPA has classified PFOA as a "likely human carcinogen."
PFOA is found in all sorts of modern goods, from cookware to water-repellant fabrics. And it’s also in the bloodstreams of 95 percent of the U.S. population. The chemical has been linked to cancer and birth defects in laboratory animals according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is known to linger and accumulate in living tissues and the environment. DuPont, the second largest US chemical company and manufacturer of Teflon, went to court with the EPA in 2004 when the Agency claimed that DuPont found traces of PFOA in their workers’ bodies and in the municipal water supplies of West Virginia and Ohio as early as 1981 but never reported it. As a result, DuPont agreed to comply with the EPA’s order to phase out 95 percent of PFOA in its products by 2015.
However, the official stance of the EPA is that nonstick cookware is just fine: Wherever we’re getting PFOA in our blood from, they say it’s not from pots and pans. Tests done by Consumer Reports agree that very little PFOA is released by nonstick cookware, though they do recommend using ventilation while cooking with it, tossing out old, flaking nonstick pans, and never placing empty nonstick pots and pans over very high heat (over 500 degrees Fahrenheit).
So, wait? PFOA is bad and DuPont is phasing it out, but it’s still okay to cook with it? Sounds questionable to us, too. How about some nice, safe, environmental alternatives?
Cast Iron cookware that has been seasoned, or coated and baked with vegetable oil, creates a natural nonstick cooking surface with even heating, temperature retention, and durability. Lodge Cast Iron, a family owned and operated company in Tennessee, has been making cookware for over 100 years.
Lodge also makes enameled cast iron cookware; we find that enamel works as well as, and is certainly more durable than, a chemical nonstick surface such as Teflon or Silverstone.
We love our Le Creuset grill pan, as well as the company’s classic enamel-lined pots and pans.
Glass cookware can’t be used with direct heat, so stovetop cooking is out, but brands such as Pyrex are perfect for baking. Tempered glass bakeware inexpensive to buy, easy to manufacture, and easy to recycle if it breaks.
In addition to ceramic, a new ovenproof product is colorful plastic silicone bakeware, the non-PFOA nonstick stuff that’s filling the Teflon niche. Silicone is made primarily from harmless sand and oxygen, but silicone ware also contains carbon, aluminum and titanium, and thus, unlike glass, isn’t easily recycled at the end of its life. While, based on what we currently know, it’s safer than a PFOA nonstick surface, it’s not the greenest option available.
Our advice: if you’re dedicated to the art of cooking, splurge for glass, ceramic, uncoated stainless steel and cast iron. All guaranteed PFOA-free.
By Island Girl
Readers, please keep sending us your questions and suggestions, and, if you like, forward this email to your friends and ask them to check out our tips at http://www.greenerpenny.com/. Thanks.