New Health Concerns Arise Over Non-Stick Coatings

The Teflon® trademark was coined by DuPont and registered in 1945; the first products were sold commercially under the trademark beginning in 1946. Applications and product innovations snowballed quickly. Marketed as non-stick and convenient, the term "Teflon" is now a household name. The nonstick pans, many of which are manufactured by DuPont, are a popular choice.

On May 16, 2000, the 3M corporation stunned the rest of the chemical industry with an unexpected announcement: It had decided to stop producing a family of compounds used in Scotchgard, Teflon, and a host of other consumer products. Saying that the "perfluorochemicals" it had manufactured for half a century had been found to persist in human blood and wildlife, 3M portrayed its move as that of a conscientious corporate citizen. Read more.

What's On This Page?

Non-stick Coatings Can Kill Birds

Household Products Using Poly- tetraflouethylene

It's Everywhere -Major Products And Brands

Related Brands

Is Nonstick Cookware Safe?

Stores Selling Cookware with Teflon® Non-stick

What Can You Do to Minimize Your Exposure?

New Health Concerns Arise Over Non-Stick Coatings Use

U.S. Urged to Put Warning Labels on Non-Stick Cookware

Impact On Human Health

What's Being Done Elsewhere?

Non-stick Coatings Can Kill Birds

Avian veterinarians have known for decades non-stick cookware can produce fumes that are highly toxic to birds. In a single year a Chicago veterinarian documented 296 bird deaths involving non-stick cookware. In "Teflon toxicosis," as the bird poisonings are called, the lungs of exposed birds hemorrhage and fill with fluid, leading to suffocation.

Gore-tex®, SilverStone® and Teflon® are registered trademarks of Dupont Chemical Company. Stainmaster® and Scotchgard® are the registered trademarks of 3M. Dupont Chemical Company and 3M do not sponsor or endorse this report, but you can See more at the EPA website.

Teflon® Applications

Industrial uses for Teflon® fluoropolymers includes the following application areas: architectural, fabrics, automotive uses, cabling materials, food processing, pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturing, and semiconductor manufacturing. Products include industrial and medical tubing, , films, chemical linings, coatings on electrical insulation, fabrics, and metals,electronic data insulation and telecommunication.

Household Products Using Poly- tetraflouethylene

Find the complete list of products that may be in your home right now.

Automotive Products


Cleaning Products

Clothing, including kids

Computer Accessories


Fashion Accessories


Gardening Products


Medical Supplies

Miscellaneous Household Products

Music Supplies


Personal Care Products

Pet Supplies

Sporting And Outdoor Gear

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Related Brands

Teflon®, SilverStone®, SilverStone® Xtra, SilverStone® Select, SilverStone® Professional and Autograph, NoStik® pan and oven liners, Sally Hansen nail enamel, Gore-tex®, Scotchgard, Comfort Socks, StainMaster carpet,` Calphalon, Chicago Metallic, Circulon, Emerilware, T-Fal (a.k.a. Tefal), All-Clad Nonstick, Farberware Non-Stick, Meyer Anolon, Rival Electric, Excalibur nonstick coatings useperfluorocarbon based coatings.

Stores Selling Cookware with Teflon® Non-stick

  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Bi-Mart
  • Bloomingdales
  • Bon Marche
  • Bon Ton
  • Boscov's
  • Burdines
  • Carson Pirie Scott
  • Costco
  • Dillards
  • Famous Barr
  • Filenes
  • Foley's
  • FortunoffMeijer
  • Goldsmith's
  • Gottshalks
  • Hecht's
  • JC Penney
  • K-Mart
  • Kohl's
  • Lazarus
  • Linens and Things
  • Macy's
  • Marshall-Fields
  • May Company
  • Meier & Frank
  • Mervyns
  • Pamida
  • Rich's
  • Shopko
  • Spiegel
  • Target
  • Wal-Mart
  • William-Sonoma
  • Younkers

U.S. Urged to Put Warning Labels on Non-Stick Cookware

News Source: Reuters
Published Date: May 15, 2003
The FDA approved Teflon® for contact with food in 1960 based on a food frying study that found higher levels of Teflon® chemicals in hamburger cooked on heat-aged and old pans. At the time, FDA judged these levels to be of little health significance.

The Environmental Working Group asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require manufactures of cookware to place warning labels on their products that caution consumers of the potential health risks of the non-stick coating.

EPA says it doesn't know enough about the compound to call it a human health hazard. As a result, DuPont continues to make products with PFOA and C8 ammonium salt. DuPont is now the sole PFOA manufacturer in the U.S. "The government has not assessed the safety of non-stick cookware. says John Thomas, of the division of regulatory guidance at FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "You won't find a regulation anywhere on the books that specifically addresses cookware." But, Thomas adds, when a type of cookware raises safety concerns, FDA gets involved.

The CPSC, in denying the Environmental Working Group’s petition to apply warning labels to nonstick coated cookware, said the petition did not have sufficient information to support the group’s claim that these coatings “have the ability to cause substantial injury or illness to a person through reasonably foreseeable handling or use” and that it had “not established whether humans will experience adverse health effects when nonstick coated cookware is used at normal cooking temperatures."

According to a study by the advocacy group, non-stick pots and pans could reach 700 degrees Fahrenheit (370 C) in 3-5 minutes, releasing 15 harmful gases and chemicals, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses. Non-stick coatings break down to a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB, and a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas, phosgene.

Is Nonstick Cookware Safe?

DuPont acknowledges that the fumes given off by non-stick coatings can also sicken people, in a condition called "polymer fume fever", which can be erroneously diagnosed as the common flu. No one has never studied the incidence of illness among users of the billions of non-stick pots and pans sold around the world, or the long-term effects from the sickness.

While DuPont acknowledges that its nonstick coatings begin to deteriorate when the cookware reaches about 500 degrees, it notes that those temperatures are higher than typical cooking heats. And while it admits that birds may be harmed by the fumes, the company maintains that its pans are safe under normal use.

Non-stick pans have never been meant for high-heat cooking, as the instructions on any pan label will show. "We recommend cooking using coated non-stick cookware at low to medium heat," says Dupont's Rich Angiullo. "We know (our product) can withstand temperatures up to 500 F, well above any of the recommended temperatures for frying or baking."

But recommendations and reality don't always coincide, says Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook. "We're still searching for the person who has never left a pan on a stove top and had it get real hot." Engineers with Underwriters Laboratories say that all UL-certified electric ranges should bring a pan to 475 degrees when the knob is turned to two-thirds high, and that maximum heat would probably exceed 600-650 degrees.

It's Everywhere - Major Products And Brands

Teflon® has been involved in the U.S. space program since the program's infancy. When astronaut Neil Armstrong took his historic "giant leap for mankind" in 1969, the moon module included numerous applications involving Teflon® resin, including space suits and blankets, heat shields, insulation and cargo hold liners.

Teflon® is used in many applications for computer chip manufacture because it is very inert and non-reactive. It's used in filters to keep air clean, in chip carriers, and virtually all tubing and piping in the semiconductor industry. DuPont Teflon® is the dominant brand used in the industry and DuPont has supplied Teflon® to that market since its inception.

As a fiber, Teflon® is used to manufacture socks that reduce friction and blisters. Recently approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration., these are especially crucial for diabetics, people with circulatory problems, geriatric needs, obesity and sensitive skin. It's also used in children's clothing, sportswear, bedding, towels, shower curtains and upholstery. It's used in military clothing and uniforms for school children and sports clothing. Major fashion designers and brands that use Teflon® fabric protector include: Hugo Boss, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Nautica, Yeohlee, Kenneth Cole, Woolrich, Pendleton, Koret, The Gap, J. Crew, L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, Robert Allen Beacon Hill Fabrics and Lee Jofa Fabrics, among others. Technology based on Teflon® also is used to repel dirt and spills from DuPont StainMaster® carpet.

Teflon® is used to coat fiberglass fabrics for permanent architectural structures such as the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, Michigan, and the Orange Bowl at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. Teflon® is in the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor as an insulator and lubricator between the copper skin and the stainless steel skeleton. Teflon® in a composite sheet form with graphite is used for bearing pads in the George Washington Bridge in New York State to prevent corrosion of the steel plates.

Packaged food and fast food containers are coated with PFCs to keep grease from soaking through the packaging. PFCs are used in a wide variety of containers, including french fry boxes, pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags.

To see more products that use teflon®:

What Can You Do to Minimize Your Exposure?

For now, the EPA says it's too early to advise consumers to toss out their nonstick cookware. If you want to take precautions in the meantime, you could set aside your nonstick pots and pans until the EPA has finished its study.

If you do use (non-stick) cookware, don't let it sit on the burner for long before adding food. Doing so may permit the temperature to rise high enough to emit chemical fumes. Avoid cooking at high temperatures with nonstick cookware. Use low to medium temperatures instead. And don't forget to keep your pet birds out of the kitchen.

Here are some tips from the EWG:

  • Phase out the use of non-stick cookware and other equipment that is heated in your home. If you can afford to replace it now, do so. When heated to high temperatures, Products with PFC coatings emit fumes that can be harmful.
  • Do not use non-stick cookware in your home if you have pet birds. In fact, avoid any kitchen equipment that contains non-stick components that are heated to high temperature during use. Fumes from these materials can quickly kill birds.
  • When you purchase furniture or carpet, decline optional treatments for stain and dirt resistance, and find products that have not been pre-treated with chemicals by questioning the retailers. Most of these chemical treatments contain PFCs that might contaminate your home and family.
  • Avoid buying clothing that bears a label or other indication that it has been coated for water, stain, or dirt repellency. Many of these coatings are PFCs. By buying alternatives you will help shrink the PFC economy and the associated global contamination.
  • Minimize packaged food and greasy fast foods in your diet. These can be held in containers that are coated with PFCs to keep grease from soaking through the packaging. PFCs are used in a wide variety of containers, including french fry boxes, pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags.
  • Avoid buying cosmetics and other personal care products with the phrase "fluoro" or "perfluoro" on the ingredient list. Among products that might contain PFCs are lotions, pressed powders, nail polish, and shaving cream.

PFCs: Global Contaminants, Environmental Working Group
EWG's listing of products that are coated with Teflon and Scotchgard.
PFOA Q's & A's, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (PDF file)
Scientists Raise Concerns About PFOS, Our Stolen Future

See Also:
Pots & Pans: Which Cookware is the Safest to Use?

Impact Of Teflon On Human Health

The EWG review finds that PFCs have contaminated the blood of;virtually every American, the environment and wildlife, and supports EPA's;findings that the associated chemicals presents health risks for women ;and girls. "These chemicals have been in use for 50 years, they've found their;way into the body of every American, and we're just now starting to understand ;the health effects. That means we need a better system for testing industrial;chemicals' health effects -- before we permit their use," said EWG Senior;Scientist Kris Thayer.;

Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists spent the last three years;reviewing 50,000 pages of regulatory studies and government documents;obtained from EPA; internal industry documents disclosed in ongoing;litigation; and a growing body of independent studies on the toxicity and;environmental occurrence of perfluorochemicals (PFCs). The chemical,;abbreviated in scientific literature as PFOA, is also known as C-8 at the;DuPont Company, which manufactures it. A Canadian study in 2001;discovered C8 was one of the chemicals released when Teflon is heated ;repeatedly. The EPA is still collecting data, and it could be several months;before the agency concludes its investigation. "We just don't have answers;right now," says EPA spokesman David Deegan.

What's Being Done Elsewhere?

Although some exposures to PFCs are unavoidable, there are two differing attitudes about how new technology should be evaluated. Historically in this country we've applied a risk-benefit analysis — do the potential benefits of the technology outweigh the potential risks? Most businesses evaluate their products on this basis.

Consumer advocates, environmentalists and the European community, however, are turning toward something called the precautionary principle. This is based on a German legal notion of the Vorsorgeprinzip, literally the "forecaring principle". Iin everyday language: Better safe than sorry. It started in Germany when laws were enacted to save forests by reducing the power plant emissions that cause acid rain. Draft legislation will soon be released by the European Union to require that over the next 11 years all chemicals be treated like new ones and be required to undergo safety testing.

Chemicals of highest concern because of their environmental infiltration, reproductive toxicity or carcinogenicity will be treated like drugs, meaning the system will presume they're dangerous and require applications for their use. The rules, if approved, would go into effect in 2005.