Harmful to Humans, Deadly to Birds
Avoid Nonstick Cookware
Within a few minutes of being heated on a stove, a nonstick, Teflon pan begins offgassing harmful chemicals. An example of the hazards of Teflon and other nonstick chemicals is the sudden death of pet birds exposed to heating cookware made with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), used to make nonstick pans. A pet bird can die within seconds of exposure, which demonstrates how strong – and dangerous – these chemicals can be.1 As you cook with these pots and pans, you are breathing in the same harmful chemicals, though not in high enough concentrations to cause immediate harm.
Nonstick Cookware is the Least Sustainable Option
Unlike the nontoxic cookware options (which can virtually last forever and even become family heirlooms), nonstick pots, pans, and baking sheets are designed using the principles of planned obsolescence. They are inexpensive to buy and require being frequently replaced as they scratch, warp, or are no longer in style. Because of this, they are the least sustainable option for cookware – they are designed to be tossed and replaced. To make matters worse, in landfills, Teflon and other nonstick pans release PFASs into the soil and groundwater, contaminating the earth and drinking water.
What to do with Your Nonstick Cookware Until You Can Replace It
If you have nonstick pots, pans, baking sheets, or other cookware at home, there are some specific techniques you can use to minimize toxic exposure until you are able to replace these pieces with nontoxic versions. Our suggestions for nontoxic, nonstick alternatives include ceramic, glass, cast iron, and stainless steel.
Step 1: Throw away any damaged pots or pans
Dispose of any nonstick cookware that is chipped, scratched or damaged. These pieces directly leach chemicals into your food and are no longer able to function the way they were originally designed. Unlike traditional cookware (ceramic, cast iron, stainless steel, or glass), nonstick cookware was not designed to last forever. If it no longer looks like new, it’s definitely time to part with it.
Step 2: Don’t scratch your nonstick cookware!
When cooking with nonstick pans, never use metal utensils or anything that will scratch their surface. If you’ve done that already, see Step 1. When you’re cleaning your cookware, avoid abrasive detergents, scrubs, or steel wool. To clean burned-on food, soak first with soap and water to soften the food, then clean with a soft sponge or scrubber that won’t scratch. Branch Basics All-Purpose is a cleaning soap gentle enough to be used on nonstick cookware.
Step 3: Cook carefully with nonstick cookware
Avoid preheating nonstick cookware on high heat, since empty pans quickly reach high temperatures. Instead, heat cookware at the lowest temperature possible to cook food safely. Never use nonstick cookware in the oven, where the oven elements heat up to high temperatures and increase offgassing in an enclosed space. In general, avoid heating over 450° F, as this could cause the coating to break down.
Step 4: Use your exhaust fan
We recommend using your exhaust fan every time you cook, no matter what type of cookware you are using. However, particularly when you are cooking with nonstick pots and pans, always turn on the exhaust fan. Ensure that the exhaust fan works well and efficiently circulates air to the outside of your house.
Step 5: Avoid “Self-Cleaning” ovens and don’t use that feature if you have one
“Self-cleaning” ovens are lined with nonstick coatings and when heated to “self cleaning high temperatures”, toxic fumes are released.2 If you have a self-cleaning option, don’t clean your oven that way. Instead, use a safe, nontoxic method for cleaning your oven.
Step 6: Store your nonstick cookware carefully
The nonstick coating on pots, pans, and baking sheets is easily scratched. If you do stack nonstick cookware, be sure to place a soft, clean rag or paper towel between them to protect the finish.
In a previous newsletter we looked at how important it is to Choose Nontoxic School Supplies. Do you know the difference between hand soap and hand sanitizer? Don’t send your kid to school with an Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer!
Integrated Pest Management: Learn the principles behind this nontoxic method for removing pests and preventing them from coming back! Have you thought about the pesticides used at your child’s school? Talk to your school about the 2 Things That Will Dramatically Improve School Air Quality (& Your Child’s Health).
If you’re sending a college student off this fall, don’t let them leave for school without reading tips from our college student interns: 6 Tips for Cleaner College Living – Advice from Our Interns