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REPORT: What Is Perfluorooctanoic Acid? Former Teflon Additive in Non-Stick Pans Is Harmful to Your Health

Whoa.

Odds are you have one in your kitchen right now.

Perhaps you purchased it recently, after the 2015 ban of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a former Teflon additive that’s been linked to cancer and birth defects (and that’s detectable in the blood of nearly all of Americans). Or maybe it’s the one you bought for your dorm in the ’90s and still hold onto for cooking eggs or pancakes.

Either way, your nonstick pan is probably not safe.

According to Cooks Illustrated, 70 percent of skillets sold today are nonstick, and for good reason: Their slick surface makes for easy cleanup and, for those looking to reduce calories in their meals, it obviates the use of oil or butter in cooking.

However, that convenient coating (which, if manufactured post-2015, is basically a resinous chemical called polytetrafluoroethylene [PTFE] that’s sprayed on like paint) can not only flake off, ending up in cooked food, but at temperatures higher than 600 degrees, it can break down and produce toxic fumes that fill your kitchen — fumes potent enough to kill birds.

“When you use a [nonstick] pan, you shouldn’t heat it without putting anything in it,” Dr. Tracey Woodruff, director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at UC San Francisco, told Salon.

“There have been reports of people heating those Teflon pans without adequate ventilation, and the birds in their house dying. When someone in the industry was asked about this, she said something like, ‘people should know better than to cook in an enclosed kitchen.’ Like, blaming the canary for being in the coal mine?”

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    Kat Merck is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. An amateur naturalist who stud... keep reading