13 reasons to ditch your favorite pots & pansNonstick, water-, and stain-repellent chemicals make life easier. But are they worth it, considering the risks?
There's no cook in America who will argue this fact: Nonstick pots and pans make life easier. The breakthrough class of chemicals known as perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) means no more scrubbing overdone eggs stuck to the bottom of cookware after Sunday-morning breakfast. Aside from that perk, nonstick chemicals of this type, such as perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, also make things like boots and raincoats water repellent, and they create a stain-repelling barrier on things like carpeting and couches. Heck, nonstick chemicals even keep grease from seeping through microwave popcorn bags and onto our laps during movie time!
Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. These PFCs, some of which are ingredients in Gore-Tex and Teflon, are persistent and don't go away, turning up later on in places like drinking water, household dust, and even umbilical cord blood! While some PFC nonstick chemicals like perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) were phased out in 2000, others, like PFOA, are still on the market, although they're supposed to be phased out by 2015. But all that doesn't matter, since these harmful chemicals can lurk inside of your body for five to eight years! Better to keep them out in the first place! The science is stacking up, and it doesn't look good for nonstick chemicals.
Here's why you may want to give PFOA and other nonstick chemicals the boot!
Reason #1: At high levels, nonstick chemicals promote cancer
Found in the blood of 98 percent of Americans, PFOA (also called C8) levels vary among the population. It's becoming increasingly clear, though, that people living near nonstick-chemical production sites face major health risks. For instance, after it contaminated a community's groundwater with PFOA over several decades, a DuPont PFOA production plant was involved in a lawsuit that prompted a study of people living in that area near the Ohio - West Virginia border. Looking at 55 different health ailments, scientists concluded that PFOA is likely linked to a higher risk of kidney, thyroid, and testicular cancer, among other health problems.
Reason #2: They make it harder to focus
Looking at highly exposed children, researchers found those exposed to drinking water contaminated with nonstick chemicals had a significantly higher risk of ADHD and higher need to be taking ADHD medication. In another study, scientists looking at 12- to 15-year-olds found those with the highest levels of certain nonstick chemicals in the blood faced a much higher risk of being diagnosed with ADHD.
Reason #3: They throw kids' lipids into a tizzy
Even if you're cooking healthy foods in those nonstick pots and pans, the chemical coating could be promoting unhealthy cholesterol levels in kids as a result of the exposure. A 2010 study appearing in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found 12- to 19-year-olds exposed to PFOA-contaminated drinking water were more likely to suffer higher LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels. Interestingly, the dose didn't make the poison: Those with lower exposures had larger increases in cholesterol. Increasingly, scientists are noting that even tiny exposures can cause lifelong changes in healthy functioning.
Reason #4: They're associated with out-of-control cholesterol in adults, too
While younger people are often more susceptible to chemical exposure, a study in Environmental Health Perspectives found adults also suffered higher cholesterol levels when they had more nonstick chemicals circulating in their bodies. These chemicals are different from many other persistant organic pollutants, which are stored primarily in fat tissue. Nonstick chemicals instead cling to proteins in the liver and blood.
Reason #5: They throw off your thyroid
Your thyroid gland is known as a master regulator, playing important roles in development. Unfortunately, thyroid disease is on the rise, and nonstick coatings often found in cookware, carpeting, and even fast-food wrappers and microwavable bags could be playing a role in fueling the disease. United Kingdom researchers looked at nearly 4,000 adults and found that after adjusting for other factors that could impact thyroid health, women with the highest PFOA levels were more than twice as likely to be under treatment for thyroid disease.
Reason #6: It's linked to pregnancy problems
In 2009, University of California - Los Angeles researchers found that women with the highest PFOA blood levels were much more likely to have trouble getting pregnant. In fact, their risk of infertility--not getting pregnant in 12 months of trying--increased 60 to 154 percent. In addition, boys born to mothers with higher levels of nonstick chemicals in their blood grow up to have poorer sperm quality featuring lower sperm counts, according to the 2013 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
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