Is Teflon really dangerous to health and can even cause cancer?

The social network Facebook has recently appeared messageswhich commemorate the film based on real events that was released in 2019 “Dark Waters” (angl. Dark waters).

The thriller tells how a lawyer who represented the interests of large corporations moves to the opposite side of the barricades after learning about the irreparable damage one of the world’s largest corporations has caused to the community, poisoned by the toxic chemicals they produce.

The film is based on true storyand the real-life character’s name is Rob Bilott. He sued DuPont Corporation and became her worst nightmare.

Just like in the film, in reality the lawyer was approached by a farmer, whose real name was Wilbur Tennant, who had recorded a lot of material about animals falling en masse under strange circumstances in the vicinity of the company.

in 1999 Bilott filed a federal lawsuit against DuPont in the Southern District of West Virginia over the summer.

In response, DuPont’s lawyer, Bernard Reilly, informed him that DuPont and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) will commission an examination to be performed by three company-selected veterinarians and three agency-selected veterinarians.

But the study’s findings were not encouraging, citing “poor nutrition, inadequate veterinary care and inadequate fly control” as the cause of the animal deaths.

But not only animals suffered. After starting to clarify the circumstances of the company’s activities, it became clear that W.Tennant’s brother Jimone of DuPont’s employees suffered from various health problems for a long time, the cause of which doctors could not properly diagnose.

A chemical company bought his lands in the 1970s and turned them into a hazardous waste dump.

The lawyer was able to find out that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was used in the company’s operations (angl. perfluoroctanoic acid).

What is this chemical?

Perfluorooctanoic acid found in “non-stick” cookware (often called Teflon) is associated with obesity, cancer, and thyroid problems.

When Danish researchers measured pregnant women’s PFOA levels and compared them to their children’s weights 20 years later, they found that mothers with the highest PFOA levels were more likely to have obese daughters than mothers with the lowest PFOA levels (the birth weight of boys was different ).

Overall on the page PFOA named as potentially carcinogenic.

Also, these chemicals are associated with thyroid, etc. cancer, infertility, birth defects, weakened immune system, so you should avoid some things that contain the substances already mentioned, it says

The first large-scale study published in 2012 reported that higher levels of PFAS and PFOA could indeed be associated with serum thyroid hormone levels and hypothyroidism (a clinical syndrome resulting from reduced thyroid hormone production). photo/Thyroid ultrasound photo/Thyroid ultrasound

What are the pans here?

Teflon, or polyfluorovinyl plastic (PTFE), is a transparent plastic used to coat metal pots and pans – then their surface becomes soft and easy to wash.

Experts say that Teflon itself is not the problem. This layer is considered non-toxic, if you eat its particles, nothing will happen, they will be removed from the body.

“Problems arise when Teflon gets too hot – then the PTFE layer starts to break down,” to a science news portal stated Susan Fenton, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences in North Carolina, USA.

Reuters/Scanpix photo/Steam rising when cooking food

Reuters/Scanpix photo/Steam rising when cooking food

When Teflon breaks down, it emits poisonous toxic gases.

In rare cases, it comes from these chemicals polymer vapor feveralso called “Teflon flu”, the symptoms of which are high temperature, shortness of breath, weakness.

This gas is deadly to birds – known caseswhen chickens perished from Teflon-coated light bulbs in aviaries.

Using and washing Teflon-coated non-stick pots and pans gradually wears off the coating, which can cause problems when cooking.

When Teflon pans are heated strongly, or when their top layer is damaged, PFOA is already released during cooking, which can pose a health risk.

It should be emphasized that there is no reliable and recognized scientific research data that undamaged, properly used Teflon pans pose a health risk, so it is officially stated that such products are safe and there is no ban on their sale in the European Union.

“Eternal Chemicals”

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals”.

Teflon (or polytetrafluoroethylene) belongs to the group of so-called eternal chemicals.

As announced European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)all PFAS contain carbon and fluorine compounds, which are among the most potent compounds in organic chemistry.

This means that they do not break down when used, nor do they break down in the environment – hence the name “eternal chemicals”.

The term PFAS includes more than 1,400 man-made chemicals, and most of them are easily transported in the environment and can end up far from the source of their release.

“More than 80 percent of PFASs in the environment are thought to accumulate in organisms and food,” – 15min said VU chemist Albinas Žilinskas.

These substances are often toxic to health. Many permanent chemicals are carcinogens – substances that can cause cancer.

Julius Kalinskos / 15min photo/Fried meat

Julius Kalinskos / 15min photo/Fried meat

The opinion of scientists

Some scientists emphasize that when testing Teflon-coated tools or pans, extreme conditions are created that could hardly be repeated everyday in a household.

However, be warned that pans and pans can quickly heat up to temperatures where Teflon does start to break down.

In 2017, in a scientific journal According to the study published by Environmental Science and Pollution ResearchTeflon, or PTFE material is stable and non-toxic at lower temperatures, but it begins to decompose at about 260 C, and pyrolysis (decomposition) occurs at temperatures above 400C.

This article points out that a Teflon-coated pan left on the stove on high heat for 8 minutes can heat up to 399 degrees C.

The main degradation products are hydrofluorocarbons (PFCs) and sublimate incl tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) and difluorocarbon radicals.

This has been discussed before – in 2009, it appeared in the journal “Polymer Degradation and Stability”. publicationwhich states that even at lower than extreme temperatures, the Teflon layer eventually begins to degrade.

This was also shown by the research carried out by scientists in 2022 laboratory simulations.

Photo from pans

Photo from pans

If you consistently heat the pan to 127 degrees C, the pan should last 2-3 years, 2001. According to a study published in Nature, which cites science news portal

“If the surface of the pan is damaged (for example, scratched), there is an increased chance that during further use, chemicals will enter our body not only through steaming, but also with splinters of the Teflon film.

So the older the pan, the more dangerous it can be. Animal studies have shown that fluorine-containing compounds, which are also found in Teflon, accumulate in the body of animals and can lead to the appearance of tumors in the liver, pancreas, testicles, – explains Skirmantė Ambrazienė, Chief Specialist of the State Food Veterinary Service, State Inspector of Food Products.

Will seek to ban the EU

As reported by Reuters news agencythis February the European Union (EU) began considering a proposal to ban widely used potentially harmful substances called PFAS, or “permanent chemicals”.

The five countries – Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and non-EU Norway – that collaborated on the proposal said in a joint statement that if passed, it would be “one of the largest chemical bans ever implemented in Europe”.

“Banning PFAS would eventually reduce the amount of PFAS in the environment. In addition, products and processes would become safer for people,” the statement emphasized.

Once the ban goes into effect, companies will be given 18 months to 12 years to implement alternatives, depending on their availability, the draft proposal says.

at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) two scientific committees – Risk Assessment and Socio-Economic Analysis – will now examine whether the proposal meets the wider EU chemicals regulation called REACHfollowed by scientific evaluation and industry consultation.

The publication was prepared in 15 minutes in partnership with Meta a program aimed at stopping the spread of misleading news on the social network. More about the program and its rules – here.

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