Teflon is a non-stick coating for pans that was developed by DuPont. Teflon pans are easier to clean and eliminate the need to add oil before sautéing ingredients.
Teflon pans were very popular, but there is recent concern about whether or not it is safe to use. Some studies show that the coating can release 15 different toxic gases if the pan is heated to a particular temperature. In fact, the gases can kill pet birds and has been labeled “Teflon Flu” when it affects humans. Symptoms include chills, headache, fever and nausea and can easily be mistaken for a simple flu. However, studies indicate that there are far graver health risks that have simply been hidden from the public.
Teflon is manufactured with perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been associated with birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. Some believe that these chemical caused birth defects among pregnant workers in the DuPont plant. Seven pregnant women who worked at the plant had elevated levels of PFOA. Other factory workers who were also tested also had PFOA in their bloodstream. Sadly, the toxin can not be cleansed out by the body and will remain in their system for the rest of their lives. These findings led the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to include PFOA as a possible human carcinogen.
A Teflon pan can release toxic gases when it is left empty on a burner for several minutes. Teflon discourages users from doing this, but it can be a common mistake of people who are cooking.
Dupont has promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 and has issued consumer warnings to not preheat the pans and use low to medium heat.