You may have cut our sugar, switched to organics and even cut back on coffee. But have you considered what you’re cooking with as part of your health picture?
When we cook our food has direct contact with whatever vessel it is in, and the effect of heat means you get much more leaching of any chemical into your food. Cookware is always prone to surface damage – your frying pans and pots get banged around and can easily become scratched or chipped by stirring, scraping or cleaning. This damage may not even be visible but leads to the disruption of the surface and the release of whatever is underneath.
ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS THAT DON'T LEAVE YOUR BODY
Perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, is the substance found in non-stick cookware, such as Teflon. It has a half life of 3-5 years in the body and is classed as an endocrine disrupting chemical. Half life is the term used to describe how long it takes for half of a substance to leave your body once ingested or absorbed. If you cook with Teflon cookware, even the tiny amounts it contains will accumulate in your body and will take 5 years for half to be eliminated. This would mean it would take at least 30 years to completely eliminate the PFOA from your body.
Unless your exposure is nil, that means a lifetime of exposure to these endocrine disrupting chemicals.
For comparison, caffeine has a half life of about 5 hours, which means after 30 hours or so it has completely cleared.
There is an argument that the amounts of these chemicals are so small that it should not matter, but I want you to consider this. Let’s say you use your non-stick pan three times a week. There are 52 weeks in a year, meaning that you’ll have 156 of these micro exposures in just one year. Add that on top of the last 25 years or so of cumulative exposures that have cleared to varying degrees, and you can easily see how this can become a problem for your body.
THE BAN OF PFOA IN TEFLON PANS
Teflon stopped using PFOA in 2013 due to safety concerns, however it’s replacement chemical, GenX is said to have similar impacts. GenX (HFPO-DA) was brought to market in 2009. It’s inventor DuPont called it a “sustainable replacement” for the persistent and toxic chemical PFOA, which the company formerly used as a manufacturing aid. A growing body of evidence suggests that HFPO-DA, like it’s cousin PFOA, is linked to harmful effects in the liver and reproductive issues. This isn’t surprising since GenX comes from the same class of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are well known for their toxicity effects, as well as their inability to break down in the environment or be excreted from our human bodies.
IS CERAMIC COOKWARE SAFE?
The most recent trend is ceramic-coated pots and pans. These are metal pans that are coated with a non-stick ceramic coating. The coatings themselves are usually considered safe, however the thin ceramic coating very quickly gets chipped or scratched, which leads to the release of whatever lurks beneath the surface coat. The quality of products can vary widely too, and I’m not completely sold on its safety. I therefore do not recommend ceramic coated cookware at this stage.
What about 100% ceramic cookware?
Cookware that is made from 100% ceramic is much safer and I’d recommend this as an option over non-stick. These products are safer as they are made from 100% ceramic, baked at super high temperatures which leads to quite a stable product. One such company is the US based Xtrema, who make small frying pans, skillets and dutch ovens with high quality ceramics.
Again caution with using metal utensils or steel wool when cleaning, as you don’t want to scratch the surface.
CAST IRON OR STEEL PANS
Cast iron is a really good option to replace your non-stick frying pan. If you seal the iron well, you can get the benefit of a non-stick surface without the worry of chemicals leaching into your food.
You can also get cast steel pans and woks – you can also season these by using a method like this. These are more lightweight so easier to handle, and a great alternative to non-stick cookware also.
Your choice of cookware is important, so hopefully this info has helped you to make better choices. For more on environmental toxicity, check out episode 8 of Season Two of The Shift Podcast where we discuss this more deeply.