Teflon is the brand name of a versatile chemical coating used in many different industries.
You can find it in automotive, industrial, and pharmaceutical products, but one of the most common Teflon applications is in household items like non-stick pots and pans.
The UK banned the use of Teflon containing perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in cookware products in 2005, and PFOA was banned globally in 2019. Exposure to PFOA contributes to negative health effects such as potential infertility, increased risk of cancer, and more. Teflon and other non-stick cookware products made after 2005 in the UK do not contain PFOA.
Continue reading to learn more about Teflon, PFOA, its potential health effects, and why it was banned. We’ll also discuss alternatives to Teflon and how to use Teflon more safely.
When Did The UK Ban Teflon?
Teflon is not its own product. It’s a brand name for polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE, which is a plastic chemical coating.
Teflon’s Concerning Ingredient
PTFE is sprayed onto a variety of products and then baked. It creates a barrier between the product and various external elements, creating a waterproof, non-stick, non-corrosive surface.
Teflon (PTFE) used to contain PFOA, short for perfluorooctanoic acid. This is a synthetic chemical that has been shown to come with various health risks.
PFOA is a type of PFAS, or per and polyfluorinated alkyl substances. PFAS refers to thousands of chemicals sometimes called “forever chemicals,” which build up in the body and bloodstream.
Those who live in an area where the local water supply has been contaminated with PFAS generally have higher amounts of PFAS in their blood.
People who are exposed to PFAS in the workplace also tend to have much higher levels of these chemicals in their blood.
Most manufacturers stopped producing non-stick products that contained PFOA around 2002.
In 2005, the UK banned the use of this type of Teflon for cookware products. Europe, as a whole, banned it in 2008. The United States followed in 2014.
PFOA was banned globally under the Stockholm Convention in 2019.
Any pots and pans you have that were manufactured before the ban may contain PFOA. However, non-stick cookware such as Teflon which was manufactured in recent years does not contain PFOA.
Is It Safe To Use Teflon Pans?
The main concern with Teflon pans in the past had to do with one of their ingredients: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
Potential Health Issues from PFOA
PFOA can contribute to multiple health conditions, including infertility, various types of cancer, thyroid disorders, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, and more.
Manufacturers initially thought that all of the PFOA was burnt off during Teflon’s production process. However, this was shown not to be true, as some Teflon-coated cookware was discovered to contain traces of PFOA.
Other Teflon-Related Concerns
Nowadays, Teflon does not contain PFOA. Overall, Teflon is considered to be safe unless it is heated to a temperature higher than 570 degrees Fahrenheit or 300 degrees Celsius.
At extremely high temperatures, Teflon begins to break down. As it does so, it releases toxic polymer fumes. Continued exposure to these polymer fumes comes with various health risks.
For example, you may experience “polymer fume fever” which mimics the flu. It comes with symptoms such as fever, chills, body aches, headache, and chest discomfort.
Alternatives to Teflon
If you prefer to avoid Teflon altogether, there are many alternatives to consider.
The five options below do not contain PFOA, and they don’t release toxic fumes when heated to high temperatures:
- Ceramic non-stick pans coated with natural materials
- Cast iron cookware, which develops a non-stick coating with regular use and seasoning
- Enameled cast iron
- Carbon steel, which requires similar seasoning and maintenance as cast iron
- Stainless steel
Using Non-Stick Cookware Safely
To minimise the chances of negative health impacts from using non-stick pots and pans, there are several things you can do.
First, use them at low temperatures only (below 300 degrees Celsius or 570 degrees Fahrenheit). This will prevent the release of any toxic fumes. Make sure your cooking area is well-ventilated.
Next, don’t use metal utensils with your Teflon or non-stick pots and pans, since they’re much more likely to chip your cookware.
In 2005, the United Kingdom banned the use of Teflon for cookware if the Teflon contained perfluorooctanoic acid, commonly referred to as PFOA. This chemical was banned globally in 2019.
Teflon manufactured after 2005 in the UK does not contain PFOA, which has been shown to come with health risks.
However, today’s Teflon can still cause “polymer fume fever” when heated to a temperature of over 300 degrees Celsius or 570 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternative types of cookware, such as cast iron, ceramic, and stainless steel do not come with this risk.