Food is medicine, and when we want to live a healthy life, we must be careful about what we put in our bodies. And thus, it’s not just the food we eat we need to watch out for, but also the cooking style and even the cookware we use.
When choosing pots and pans to cook our food, we need to ensure everything we use is PFOA-free. You might see this a lot on cookware labels, but do you know what it is? And why is it imperative to ensure you’re only using PFOA-free pots and pans?
In this article, we’ll cover what PFOA is, why it’s dangerous, and how you can ensure that the pots and pans you have at home are free of the substance.
What is PFOA?
Let’s begin by talking about what PFOA is. PFOA is short for Perfluorooctanoic Acid, a synthetic chemical used in industrial settings and manufacturing.
Before 2013, PFOA was the prevalent chemical used to make pots and pans nonstick. In other words, most of the cookware manufactured before 2013 was coated with PFOA coating.
To understand why manufacturers use PFOA, we need to know how the chemical works. PFOA makes products resistant to water, grease, and stain. When applied to clothing, it makes garments waterproof and stain-resistant. When used as a nonstick coating on cookware, it makes cooking so much easier, as you won’t need to add oil or any form of grease when frying, grilling, or cooking any food. It also makes washing and cleaning cookware easier as any substance slides off the cookware.
Aside from clothing and cookware, PFOA was also used in other industries, such as firefighting, manufacturing, and construction. It was also applied on stain-resistant carpets, floor wax, and several other household product applications.
Why is PFOA Dangerous?
Several years ago, researchers discovered that PFOA is problematic to human health and the environment. This is because PFOA is a synthetic chemical, which means it is not found in human or animal bodies, nor is it produced in nature. Therefore, it is an artificial product that has been shown to last forever, just like other synthetic chemicals like plastic.
PFOA is considered a “forever chemical” because it stays in the body, in the air, in water, and just about everywhere without disintegrating. In other words, it is non-biodegradable. And when it comes to the human body, it doesn’t get expelled.
The human body can absorb PFOA, but it can’t eliminate the chemical as waste. And PFOA has also been found to be bio-accumulative, which means repeated exposure to the chemical produces build-up inside the body.
Experts have studied that PFOA is found everywhere, even in drinking water. During a study done from 1999 to 2000 by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey or NHANES, researchers discovered PFOA in the blood of more than 98% of the people who took part in the survey.
Health Effects of PFOA in the Human Body
Researchers discovered that individuals who had high levels of PFOA in their blood suffered from a wide range of health issues. Though further studies and examinations are still needed to find an exact cause and effect, high correlations between high levels of PFOA in the blood and specific health issues are significant enough to deem the chemical dangerous to human health.
When cooking with cookware coated with PFOA, humans can inhale the chemical through fumes created when pots and pans are used over high heat.
Build-up of PFOA over time is correlated with the following conditions:
- Liver damage
- Kidney cancer
- Thyroid disease
- Testicular cancer
- Low birth weight in infants
- High blood pressure
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension
Many researchers warn of flu-like symptoms when fumes from PFOA-coated cookware are inhaled.
Studies have also revealed that PFOA can cause several long-term ill health effects even in low concentrations.
In addition, the International Agency for Research on Cancer or IARC, a brand of the World Health Organization, classified PFOAs as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
Is PFOA Still Being Used Today?
The good news is that PFOA is no longer being used in manufacturing today. Since 2013, PFOA has not been used on cookware, thanks partly to the EPA or Environmental Protection Agency, a health advisory created to protect Americans.
The PFOA Stewardship Program was launched in 2006 by EPA to spearhead PFOA elimination on all cookware products. And in 2019, the chemical was banned entirely globally under the Stockholm Convention.
How To Make Sure Your Pots and Pans are PFOA-Free
Now that you know the dangers of using PFOA-coated cookware, let’s guarantee you never get to use one.
Here are some things you can do to make sure you’re using only PFOA-free pots and pans when cooking:
1. Buy Cookware from Reputable Brands
Never buy pots and pans from overnight brands. These brands may purchase their products wholesale and put their label on the products and not know what went into the production process of their products.
To ensure you get high-quality PFOA-free and safe cookware, buy from trusted brands only that have their manufacturing facility or follow safety and quality protocols in meeting product standards.
Consider: Misen Cookware
2. Never Buy Second-Hand Cookware
You must ensure that the pots and pans you use are manufactured after 2013, and this guarantees that no PFOA was used in producing the cookware. Any pots and pans manufactured before 2013 have high potentials of having PFOA in their nonstick coating.
3. Buy From Companies That Fully Disclose Their Materials and Manufacturing Processes
If you’re unsure, you can always read the product’s labels, or you can even call or email the company asking about the materials used and their manufacturing process. If they don’t respond or are not transparent about these details, then it may be wise that you purchase from a brand that does.
PFOA-Free Alternatives to Cookware
You can also choose to use non-toxic, healthy cookware to ensure the pots and pans you use for cooking are free from toxic chemicals.
Here are three of the most common and safest cookware to use:
There are two types of ceramic cookware: one is pure ceramic, and the other is ceramic coated. Pure ceramic is the healthiest form of cookware because it is chemical-free.
It is also versatile as you can use it on a stovetop, grill, oven, or microwave. It’s also dishwasher and freezer-safe, and it retains heat very well. However, it’s expensive and breaks easily when dropped.
Coated ceramic is also excellent since they offer a natural nonstick coating on pots and pans. You can also wipe them clean easily, and they produce even heating. However, ceramic-coated cookware does not last long because it’s merely a coating. The more you use it, the more the coating sheds away.
2. Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is durable and typically lasts a lifetime. It is non-toxic, non-chemical, and dishwasher-safe. It doesn’t rust, corrode or react with acidic food. It is also safe on stovetops, even at very high temperatures. However, cooking with stainless steel can be a challenge as food sticks to the surface.
3. Cast Iron
Cast iron cookware is made for serious home cooks and professional chefs. They’re cumbersome and bulky and hold heat better than most cookware materials. It can be used on a stovetop or oven, is multipurpose, and, when seasoned, provides a nonstick surface.
Related: Ceramic vs stainless steel cookware
PFOA-free pots and pans ensure that you are cooking in non-toxic cookware that’s safe for your health. While PFOA was the norm for nonstick cookware several years ago, researchers have discovered that fumes coming from these pots and pans can cause a wide range of health issues that include several types of cancer.
When choosing pots and pans to use, always make sure they are PFOA-free to guarantee that your food is safe and free from any chemicals that may cause any problems to your health.
Related: The difference between reactive and non-reactive cookware