What is PFOA and can it cause negative effects for your health?

"What makes non-stick cooking pans not sticky?" When I was a young kid, I keep asking this to my mom and she just answers me with a smirk.

Recently, I've found out the answer I've long been looking for. And I will discuss it further in this entry. In this article, let’s find out what is PFOA and if it is dangerous.

PFOA vs. PTFE (Teflon)

Non-stick pans are made of PTFE or most commonly known as Teflon, is often mistaken with PFOA. PFOA or Perfluorooctanoic acid is a compound used in making PTFE or Polytetrafluoroethylene.

Sometimes, people mistakenly think that PTFE is the same with PFOA. But they are 2 very different compounds.

First, let's get to know more about our little friend PFOA. What exactly is PFOA?

We are going have a little chemical discussion here. But please don't get intimidated. I will make it as simple as I can for you to get a deeper understanding on the topic.

A Close Look at PFOA

PFOA is a synthetic perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant. It is used to make fluoropolymer and telomer-based consumer products.

One good example that's used everyday is non-stick pans. 3M (then Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company) first produced PFOA in 1947.

However, DuPont bought it from them and made Teflon eventually. PTFE is classified as a fluoropolymer plastic - meaning it has flourine atoms.

Now, these flourine atoms are the ones responsible in stopping carbon atoms from reacting to the juices of the food when cooking, hence the reason why food doesn't stick in non-stick pans.

PFOA can possibly cause cancer

"Is PFOA dangerous for the body?" - this is a question that's been lingering long enough in the minds of people who are scrupulous about cookware. A lot of people have been discussing whether PFOA or Perfluorooctanoic acid should be banned totally.

PFOA has a strong ability to stay present in the environment and inside the body for long periods. A worldwide research has found out that almost everybody around the globe has PFOA in their bloodstream.

It's not surprising because as I mentioned earlier, we all have used non-stick pans at least once in our entire life.

Though PFOA is used in making these non-stick pans, manufacturers say that it's completely dissolved during the production process and is no longer present in the final product. So non-stick pans, particularly that with Teflon, is 100% safe.

But ever since it was alleged to be carcinogenic to animals, researchers have been conducting various studies on PFOA specifically on the health risks it can bring.

Proven carcinogenic to animals

One study conducted on animals has proven the carcinogenic attributes of PFOA. And they've found out that higher exposure to PFOA can increase growth of tumors particularly of the liver, breasts, pancreas, and testicles.

Though they still have to conduct more studies because they're still not affirmative if PFOA will affect humans in the exact same way.

PFOA on humans

People living near or working in chemical plants and manufacturing companies are highly exposed to PFOA.

Researchers have conducted studies on them and found out that due to their high exposure to PFOA, they're more prone to having thyroid cancer, testicular cancer, and kidney cancer.

Other risks PFOA can cause:

  • Liver damage
  • Changes in blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Thyroid disease
  • Changes in blood pressure levels

These studies suggest strong evidences proving that PFOA indeed is harmful to the human body. However, there's still a lot of research and study to be done.

How can I protect myself from PFOA?

1. Don't overheat your non-stick pans.

Best induction cookwares

When using non-stick pans, be sure not to overexpose it to heat above 500°F. It releases potentially carcinogenic fumes when exposed to extremely high temperature.

2. Use non-destructive cooking utensils like wooden, silicone, and plastic utensils.

These types of cooking utensils won't scratch the surface of your non-stick pans, where PTFE is present.

3. Choose eco-friendly cookware.​

There are other types of non-stick pans that are not PTFE-based like GreenPan, Cuisinart, and GreenGourmet. They can either be silicone-based or enamel/ceramic-based.

4. Eat less fast food or take-out food.

Fast food companies use take-out food paper wrappers that are made from perfluoroinated chemicals.

5. Check labels of every product that you buy.

Be cautious of everything that you buy. Check the ingredients list or components list and be sure that there is no 'fluoro' or PTFE.

Conclusion

Overall, the world is starting to avoid PFOA because of its carcinogenic properties. Well, I agree that it's better to protect and prevent possible damages before it actually happens.

We hope we have clarified to you the real essence of PFOA and how it can affect your daily cooking life.

Don't hesitate to share it with your family and friends to make them aware of this issue. We also would love to hear from you! Leave a message in the comments section and let us know what you think.

Keep chewing with cookingchew! See you again!

Emily Mathews
 

Hi, I am Emily Mathews. I grew up in a small town in Tennessee, where I learned how to cook fabulous local dishes from my Mother. I have 3 children and they enable me to cook from my heart every day. I am also passionately interested in creating globally inspired food with locally grown ingredients.

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