Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Greenest Cookware?

Slate's Green Lantern posted an educational response to an engaged couples' question regarding eco-friendly cookware. Find it here. On top of discussing the virtues of copper and longevity of a solid, cast iron pan, the Lantern mentions something that I know very little about: Fluoropolymers. Better known for their presence in a little something called "nonstick coating." From the article:

...Most nonstick cookware is lined with polytetrafluoroethylene—one of a class of slippery substances, known as fluoropolymers, used to make products waterproof, grease-proof, and stain-resistant. (DuPont's Teflon is the most famous brand.)

...Fluoropolymer manufacturing has traditionally required the use of perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical known to linger in the environment and to be toxic to animals. (It's also been found, in low levels, in the blood of more than 98 percent of the American population of humans.) How the acid, known as PFOA, actually gets into our blood and to what extent it affects our health aren't fully understood, but in 2005 the EPA's independent Science Advisory Board recommended that it be labeled a likely human carcinogen. The EPA is continuing to research the issue, however, and hasn't reached any definitive conclusions. (Some people avoid nonstick-coated pans for fear of harmful gases that could be released at high temperatures. However, the scientific consensus is that they're safe when used carefully—i.e., when the burner heat is kept relatively low and pans are never heated while empty.)

Although the Lantern seems less concerned about this carcinogen and more focused on reminding the reader of some eco-basics like 'less is more' and that the environmental cost of mining and processing raw/virgin materials is far higher than that of post-consumer recycled material, I can't help but wonder... is PFOA the next BPA?

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