You Should Avoid Using Teflon Around Kids, Because Science

Exposure to a toxic chemical used in Teflon until 2015 is linked to several cancers, diseases and negative health outcomes. An updated look at the data.

TLDR; Teflon products manufactured before 2015 contain a chemical called C8, which is a known toxin that’s readily absorbed by the body. For family health, it’s smart to reduce exposure to Teflon products made more than a year ago.

It’s too bad that Teflon cooking products made before 2015 can be considered toxic. I like my Teflon pans. And they weren’t cheap. But facts are facts – and recently released company documents show that DuPont agrees.

C8 – used in Teflon products made before 2015 – is toxic. Evidence shows a probable link between exposure to C8 (a chemical used in Teflon until 2015) and a long list of diseases, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

The Intercept reports that “even very low exposure levels were associated with health effects.”

All of this has been documented over the past month in the New York Times MagazineThe InterceptHuffPost Highline, and Alternet, who published “For More Than 50 Years, DuPont Concealed the Cancer-Causing Properties of Teflon.”

For a summary of those articles and an interview with the author of Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal: The Hidden Dangers of C8, read this post on The Awl.

DuPont phased out C8 in 2015. Food packaging, microwave popcorn bags, textiles, and carpeting (the biggest sources of Teflon exposure in most US homes) will no longer be made with the chemical.

However, most American homes are still full of C8-enriched Teflon products. They will be for years.

Our kitchens and carpets aren’t the only things full of C8 – so are our bodies.

C8 resists biodegrading. According to this study from the Centers for Disease Control, it can be found in 98 percent of Americans bloodstreams, and in umbilical cord blood and breast milk.

The Seattle Times reports that:

“If you are using non-stick products, simply because your food doesn’t stick to it, you should know that research studies have found toxic chemical C8 contaminates your food and can result in high blood pressure in pregnant women, immune system disorder, thyroid, liver problems and higher cholesterol rate, even in children. As a matter of fact, the researchers have discovered that high blood pressure epidemic (as a result of chemical C8 in non-stick products) is usually combined with protein leakage into urine that can cause pre-eclampsia which threatens the health and life of both mother and the baby.” – Seattle Times 

New research from Brown University found that C8 has been linked to increased body fat and faster weight gain in children whose mothers were exposed to high levels during pregnancy.

As reported in Discover Magazine, “children of mothers whose exposure was highest weighed less at two than their less-exposed counterparts but weighed almost 2.5 more pounds at age eight.”

Don’t Panic (But It’s Still Better to Be Safe Than Sick & Sorry)

Most of the advice about cooking with Teflon says that it’s safe to use in the kitchen if kept under 550 degrees (when it starts to release gaseous fumes). And the Food and Drug Administration says Teflon cookware is acceptable for conventional kitchen use.

WebMD says “But while C8 is still a concern, it’s unlikely that we get most of our exposure from the use of nonstick pans.” The Guardian reports that in “a typical US home, exposure from carpets, upholstery, and textiles or clothing carries a higher risk than non-stick cookware.”

In 2014, Eating Well Magazine wrote that they are “taking what we feel is a sensible but cautious approach” and will keep using Teflon coated pans.

Still, there is ample evidence shows that C8 can easily transfer into the body.  Why risk it?

Alternatives to Teflon

Many people started used Teflon so they could avoid using cooking fat. But it turns out that cooking with fat like olive oil has many health benefits. And using a bit of oil to keep your food from sticking doesn’t necessarily lead to weight gain. (Does Olive Oil Make You Fat?)

Here are four types of pans that are non-toxic. Eating Well recommends good old seasoned cast iron pans here. I’ve been using the same stainless steel set for over a decade.

Cooking technique determines how much food sticks to a pan. Read “The Real Reason Your Food Sticks To The Pan” for tips to reduce sticking.

And if it’s cleanup you’re worried about, just let your pans soak for a bit. A bit of red wine is healthy for your heart – enjoy that while the pan is in the sink.

Or get your kids to clean the pans. You can always tell them that they’re scrubbing because you love them enough not to poison them with Teflon.