WebMD the Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD
Q: I've heard that using Teflon nonstick pans for cooking can cause cancer. Is that true?
A: Tremendous confusion exists on this topic, but we're happy to report this belief is FALSE.
ccording to the findings of a 2006 Environmental Protection Agency scientific advisory panel, the primary chemical used to make Teflon -- perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA -- is a "likely human carcinogen." But that applies only to PFOA that has been emitted into the environment.
"The link between Teflon cookware and cancer is an entirely different subject," says Robert Wolke, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the two-part book series What Einstein Told His Cook. "There is no PFOA in the final Teflon product, so there is no risk that it will cause cancer in those who use Teflon cookware."
That said, Wolke warns, "heating a Teflon pan to 500 degrees or more" (as happens when we leave empty pans on high heat by mistake) can result in smoke and gases that can cause flu-like symptoms in humans and kill pet birds.
So keep an eye on your stovetop and keep your smoke alarms in good working order.
Cheeseburgers are bad for you. French fries are bad for you. Double-cheesy-triple-layer-giant-sized burritos are bad for you. None of this is news. However, what if you learned that the paper that wraps these drive-through delicacies was worse for you than the food they hold? This, would be important news.
New research from the University of Toronto reports that this is, sadly, true. Perfluoroalkyls are chemicals that repel grease, oil and water. Typically these are used for Teflon coating, stain-resistant carpet and varnish - things that need to protect themselves from grease and other liquids, according to EatDrinkBetter.com. Additionally, these chemicals are used to coat fast food wrappers, to keep the grease and condiments from reaching your hands. Don't think you're not ingesting it just because a burger was wrapped in it for a couple minutes. High levels of these chemicals are leached into the food that you eat, and thus are showing up in people's blood.
Regulators haven't made motions for stricter regulation on this group of chemicals, also known as PFCAs, because they assumed three things, according to Scott Mabury, the study's lead researcher: “That the chemicals wouldn't move off paper into food; they wouldn't become available to the body; and the body wouldn't process them. They were wrong on all three counts.”
We reported at DietsInReview.com, in "Fast Food Wrappers as Bad for You as the Food Inside," that "These chemicals belong to the group commonly called 'gender bending' chemicals because they have shown to be disruptive to the endocrine system and can negatively affect the sex hormones." The chemicals are carcinogens, and linger in the environment for a long time, which is why the chemical industry began reducing its dependency.
EatDrinkBetter.com said "The amount of polyfluoroalkyl phosphate [eaters] absorbed from a single fast-food wrapper is not enough to make anyone sick, so don’t fret if you just got back from a drive-thru." However, if artery-clogging amounts of fat, multiple days' worth of calories, and heart-stopping amounts of sodium weren't enough to make you resist your combo meal cravings, maybe cancer-causing packaging will. Likewise, eating one burger once in a while isn't going to hurt. But when you eat fast food daily for one or more meals, and people do this, it becomes a problem.