Sunday, February 4, 2007

What do I cook with...and why Part 2

Did you know that a 1959 study  conducted by the FDA (prior to the approval of Teflon) found that Teflon coated pans leach small amounts of fluoride?  Did you know that in 2000, 3M corporation decided to stop making  a group of compounds used in Scotchguard, Teflon and other products?  They stated that perfluorochemicals were found to persist in human blood and wildlife. Did you know that packaged food and fast food containers are coated with PFC’s so that the grease doesn’t soak through the packaging material (think french fry boxes, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags). If you are using a microwave read this and if you are still eating fast food then visit the Amazon link to the right and order a book called Fast Food Nation - it will change your life!

Oh, by the way, these chemicals are used in/on lots of things other than cookware.  Would you believe: Automotive Products, Carpet, Cleaning Products, Clothing (including kids clothes), Computer Accessories, Fashion Accessories, Furniture, Gardening Products, Luggage, Medical Supplies, Miscellaneous Household Products, Music Supplies, Paints/Coating, Personal Care Products, Pet Supplies, Sporting And Outdoor Gear and the list goes on!  Some of the brand names are: Teflon®, SilverStone®, SilverStone® Xtra, SilverStone® Select, SilverStone® Professional and Autograph, NoStik® pan and oven liners, Sally Hansen nail enamel, Gore-tex®, Scotchgard, Comfort Socks, StainMaster carpet,` Calphalon, Chicago Metallic, Circulon, Emerilware, T-Fal (a.k.a. Tefal), All-Clad Nonstick, Farberware Non-Stick, Meyer Anolon, Rival Electric, Excalibur.

Did you know that most companies evaluate their products on a basis of whether the potential benefit of their technology outweighs the potential risks....but since they are desiring to sell the technology (and stand to make a lot of money from it) can they be trusted to safely evaluate the risk?  I think Grandma used to call this “having the fox guard the chicken house”.   Finally, here are some comments from Paul Connet and Dr. C. Vyvyan Howard.

Comments from Paul Connett, PhD:

Teflon is the trade name for the polymer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) used in electrical insulating tape; combustion engines; chemical apparatus and tubing designed to resist attack from most chemicals, and in non-stick frying pans and other cookware.

Prior to this article there have been stories about caged birds dying in kitchens after fires involving Teflon cookware, suggesting the emissions of toxic gases when this polymer is burned.

This article is more serious because the researchers did not burn the Teflon but simply heated it. Presumably, typical cooking procedures would also heat the Teflon to the temperature range investigated by these researchers. Thus, this material that is perceived by most as being benign, could be a source of both significant indoor and outdoor air pollution.

This is another nasty indication that the world of organofluorine compounds could be going the same way as their more famous cousins: the organochlorine compounds. In the latter case most of these products, such as organochlorine pesticides, solvents and PVC plastic (despite the toxic generating manufacturing processes that produce them) were perceived as benign.

However, they had several problems:

*They tended to be very persistent in the environment       

* They are fat soluble and resistent to normal detoxification processes in the liver    

* They accumulate and concentrate in animal and human body fat   

* They get passed on by the mother to the fetus through the placental membrane & then to the infant via breastmilk

   * A number of them are endocrine disrupting chemicals (i.e. they interfere with the production or performance of hormones, which are the messengers produced in special glands to regulate body chemisty).

To top it all, when these substances are burned in any facility ranging from a back yard burner to a trash incinerator, they produce highly toxic byproducts including dioxins and furans ( PCDDs and PCDFs). Twelve of these compounds (or families of compounds) were the subject of the POPs (persistent organic pollutants) treaty signed in Stockholm last May by many countries around the world, including the US. The bottom line is that nature doesn't make persistent things. Both in our bodies and in the environment, natural processes are constantly building up and breaking down all the chemical components used. Nature attempts to protect itself from persistent fat soluble substances by converting them to water soluble substances, which can then be excreted through the kidney. If this strategy fails then they are stored in our fat. In the case of persistent (or permanent) water soluble substances like fluoride or lead, the body will excrete as much as it can through the kidney and what it can't ends up largely in our bones. However, in the case of both fluoride and lead other more sensitive organs like the brain and pineal gland may also have mechanisms which allow their accumulation. Returning to organofluorine compounds,

it is also interesting to note that there are two forms of fluoride found in human plasma: free (or inorganic) fluoride and bound fluoride. According to Gary Whitford in his book, "The Metabolism and Toxicity of Fluoride" (Karger,1996), "perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, octanoic acid fully saturated with 15 fluorine atoms)...(constitutes) about 20-30% of the nonionic fluoride in human plasma. This surface-active agent, which is a component of plasticizers, lubricants, wetting agents, emulsifiers and other products, appear to enter the body through contact with or ingestion of commercial products. It has a very long half-life (approx. 1.5 years) in human males (Ubel et al., 1980)". Thus the question raised by this new report in Nature is how many of the byproducts from heating Teflon are accumulating insidiously in our bodies like PFOA? Are any being passed onto the fetus? Will any of them turn out to be endocrine disrupters?

Paul Connett, PhD, is a Professor of Chemistry at St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York. He is also Director of the Fluoride Action Network, an international coalition dedicated to ending water fluoridation and alerting people to fluoride's health and environmental risks. Visit their website at

Follow-Up Comment from Dr C. Vyvyan Howard, MB, ChB, PhD, FRCPath:

It seems that it may be even worse than Paul Connett has portrayed. When you heat Teflon (PTFE) up to the sort of temperatures that you get in "state of the art" municipal waste incinerators (eg, 800°C) you get the formation of CFCs, the major greenhouse gas that has been banned as a refrigerant. When one considers the amount of clothing and fabric that is coated with PTFE (most artificial fibres described as 'breathable') this could have major implications for waste incineration.

Another aspect of heating PTFE in cooking utensils is the following: A standard method of producing an aerosol of ultrafine particles is to heat PTFE up to 480°C. This produces some gas-phase products, mainly HF (hydrogen fluoride). If PTFE is further heated up to 500°C other gas-phase products are produced, including perfluoroisobutylene and others, which are highly toxic.

This is described in a paper by Obersdorster G, 'Toxicology of ultrafine particles: in vivo studies'. Trans. Phil. R. Soc. Lond. A (2000) 358: 2719-2740. The rest of that issue of Trans Phil is dedicated to ultrafine particles.

Ultrafine particles are defined as those below 0.1 microns (100nm) and it is being demostrated that these have a toxicity all of their own, which seems to be associated with their high chemical reactivity (that, after all, is how we make heterogeneous catalysts!). I have recently edited a book on this (Particulate Matter: properties and effects upon health. Eds R L Maynard and C V Howard. Bios, Oxford (1999). ISBN 185996172X (Sorry about the self advertising)).

However, it is appearing that the majority of the toxicity of particulate aerosols may be attributable to the ultra-fine fraction. This could have major implications for the use of Teflon (PTFE) coated cookware in the home and industry. I am not aware that the tie up between the routine use of these materials, ultrafine particle production and possible health effects has yet been made.

Dr C. Vyvyan Howard, MB, ChB, PhD, FRCPath,
Developmental Toxico-Pathology Group,
Mulberry Street,
University of Liverpool,
Liverpool L69 7ZA

So, you ask....what can you do?  Here are some of the things I have done over the years - perhaps you can pick one or two and begin your journey also!

I store my food in glass containers whenever possible - it is the safest material to use. 

I try never to use Tupperware or other types of plastic storage containers. If I purchase something that comes in a plastic bag, say organic raisons, I transfer  them into a canning jar when I get home.   I try not to use ziplock bags, if I have to store something in a plastic bag, I wrap the food in wax paper first if possible.

I am eliminating chemical cleaning products in my home, I am not all the way there yet but am working on it dilligently.  

Eat organic - buy from local farmers, join a CSA or better yet, raise your own food!  

Avoid fast food and pre-processed/pre-packaged foods - when you shop at the grocery store - try to avoid the aisles - shop the perimeter which is where the food is - the stuff on the aisles is usually  processed and has very little nutritional value while delivering an unhealthy dose of chemicals, dyes and preservative to your body.  

Avoid cosmetics and body care products with “fluoro” or “perfloro” listed in the ingredients. Switch to natural body care products (shampoo, soaps, toothpaste) - you can go here to see what our family uses and offers to you!  

When you buy furniture or carpet - don’t buy the optional treatments for stain resistance - try to find products that have not been pre-treated with chemicals.

Buy clothing made from natural fibres (cotton, linen, wool) and avoid those that have been treated to be breathable, stain resistant, water resistent, dirt resistent etc.

Throw away your non-stick coated pans - begin changing over to cast iron, glass, enamel and stainless steel.  Glass cookware is not expensive.

My hope is that you prayerfully consider cooking with pots and pans that will help you and  your family stay as healthy as possible.  I can not emphasize enough how my family's health has improved over the years because of these steps!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails