The Truth About Teflon
First off, let me say that I work for a Teflon manufacturer, Applied Plastics Technology. We don’t make pans, we actually mold Teflon parts. We’ve been working with Teflon for over thirty years, and we’re currently pioneering new ways of working with it. On my first day I read through the OSHA booklet about Teflon, plus a whole bunch of other manuals about it. So I know more than a little about Teflon.
Continue reading...Teflon is an amazing chemical, and without it many different industries would shut down. It won’t react with any other chemical, it’s almost frictionless, it’s nearly a perfect insulator, and it’s one of the purest materials ever made. It’s used to insulate wire, in HDTV broadcasters, in submarine valves, to make Egg McMuffins, to hold dangerous and reactive chemicals, and too many other ways to count. Essentially, if you need something pure, something inert, something nonconductive, or something frictionless, Teflon is the only material that will do. Our world is pretty dependent upon it.
There is only one way to make Teflon dangerous, and that’s to heat it up to over 700 degrees Fahrenheit. When this happens Teflon enters a gel stage, something like Jello. When it gets this hot chemicals such as Hydrogen Fluoride are released as gasses. There are several people I work with who smoke, and they’re very careful about not getting the Teflon powder in their cigarettes for this reason. But as I said, this is the only way Teflon is dangerous.
The site I linked to claims that pans can heat up to 700 degrees in five minutes. I highly doubt this. The only time I’ve seen something get that hot on a stove was when I destroyed a tea kettle by letting all the water boil off, and that was probably not even over 700 F. But the important point is that if there’s anything in the pan it won’t get this hot on a conventional range.
Not to mention that an FDA study on the safety of Teflon cookware found that, at cooking temperatures, the gasses from oils and fats being cooked are more dangerous than those from the Teflon. A myriad of other studies have been done, and they universally show non-stick coatings to be safe. See the PTFE Wikipedia entry for more info on these.
The site makes a lot of statements about birds, and how Teflon can kill them, but neglects that being in a kitchen that doesn’t use Teflon pans can kill them. This is classic misinformation tactic, not giving all the available facts. As I mentioned before, the gasses from food are deadlier at lower temperatures than the Teflon itself.
The site also makes claims about a chemical called C-8, and implies that it comes from Teflon. But it doesn’t; it’s used to make it. Teflon itself is polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE (or some other form such as PFA, but never C-8), and that’s all you get with it, unless it’s mixed with something else (such as a metal). This is the tactic that initially reminded me of creationism: make a lot of claims about something in the context of another thing, and hope the reader relates them. It’s intentional confusion, and it’s dishonest and reprehensible.
The only other claim on the site is that Teflon is present in everyone’s blood. The author doesn’t say that this is bad, just leaves it up to the reader to assume. After all, it’s in our blood! It must be bad! Unfortunately for them, lab rats fed a diet of 75% Teflon for months had no health effects, so even if it is in our blood, it’s not dangerous. It’s almost as though it never occurred to this author that agencies exist to make sure we know things are safe, and that they do experiments, instead of just making stuff up.
But I doubt it’s even true, mainly because Teflon is so inert it probably wouldn’t get absorbed in the stomach. A chemical that doesn’t react with anything, not even HCl, is not going to be digested. Even if it was, it would just kind of chill out, not doing anything because it doesn’t react. Most likely, whatever Teflon you do eat just gets pooped right out.
Teflon is a very cool chemical. It’s less reactive than stainless steel, as frictionless as ice, a nearly perfect insulator, and about as pure as any material can be. Not to mention that, as long as it’s kept relatively cool, it’s harmless. So pay no heed to these doomsayers, Teflon’s one of the safest chemical you’ll ever deal with.