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Nonstick’s Sticky Wicket
Q Are there health hazards associated with Teflon and other nonstick cookware?
A Possibly—but there are ways to sidestep the risks.
Manufacturers of nonstick cookware have known for decades that heating their products past 600Þ F can cause fluoropolymers in the coating to break down. And as these chemicals degrade, they release toxic gases, some of which can cause a temporary flu-like condition and some of which are carcinogenic, into the air. So DuPont, the maker of Teflon, recommends cooking at temperatures at or below 500Þ F.
But the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently sounded the alarm with a study showing that a generic nonstick frying pan, left empty on an electric burner set at high heat, reached 736Þ F in just 3 minutes and 20 seconds; a Teflon pan topped 700 degrees in 5 minutes. The EWG has petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require warning labels on nonstick cookware, but so far has been turned down.
If you do use nonstick pots and pans, keep the heat at low or medium, and never let a pan sit empty on a hot stove. Or choose cast-iron, enamel-coated iron, or steel versions instead. Integrative doc Andrew Weil also gives his seal of approval to copper and aluminum-clad pots and pans, as long as they have stainless-steel interior surfaces.
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