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PFAS and similar compounds have been commonly used used to make Teflon nonstick cookware (until 2013), like frying pans, water-repellent sports gear, stain-resistant rugs, food packaging and other consumer - even cosmetics- and industrial products.. They are called "forever chemicals" because they do not degrade in the environment and persist for many years, showing up in almost all living organisms.
PFAS have been voluntarily phased out by most U.S.-based manufacturers but 3M has continued to produce them for a few uses. The EPA proposed in August 2022 to designate two forms of PFAS's as hazardous substances under Superfund law.
PFAS have been (by 3M estimates) $1.3 billion annual sales for the company.
PFAS accumulate in the human body. Studies from both animals and humans indicate that exposure to PFAS can result in cancer or damage to the liver, kidneys and thyroid gland and testicular cancer, as well as being correlated with infertility and low birth weight
In addition, the EPA found in this 2016 study that PFAS can result in high cholesterol, increased liver enzymes, decreased vaccination response, thyroid disorders, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia.
PFAS, which are not naturally occurring, have also been found in both municipal and private well drinking water, as well as in rainwater.
During the manufacturing process, most of the PFOA is burned off and only a small amount remained in the final product. Even so, that
small amount in Teflon cookware has not be considered by objective research to be a significant source of PFOA exposure. .
Please note, all Teflon products have been free of PFOA since 2013.
If you own older Teflon-coated cookware, especially that which has a damaged cooking surface, such as flaking or peeling coating, those are the only ones which cook be of concern.
While PFOA's are no longer used in Teflon-coated cookware, PFAS (per- and polyfluoroaklyl substances) still are. Here's the issue. while Teflon is considered safe and stable under normal use, at high temperatures ( above 500°F / 260°C), Teflon coatings break down emitting toxic chemicals. These fumes are unhealthy and cause a syndrome called "polymer fume fever" or the Teflon flu.
The symptoms are flu-like chills, fever, headache, and/or body aches, which begin 4 to 10 hours after exposure. The conditions normally go away on their own in 12 to 48 hours.
The studies do show that it took extreme conditions (exposure to fumes from Teflon cookware heated to at least 730°F (390°C) for periods of at least 4 hours.
There are many alternatives to Teflon coatings now, including many that are nonstick:
Also check out silicone microwave popcorn poppers!