June 17, 2024


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How Safe Are Teflon and Other Fluoropolymer Coatings?

Teflon® was discovered nearly 70 years ago and has been used safely on cookware for over 40 years. Teflon® has been used since the 1940’s on automotive, military, personal use, and industrial products. Many Teflon® and other fluoropolymer coatings are permitted for use in contact with food in compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and applicable regulations, including 21 CFR 175,300.

There is one known health hazard associated with Teflon, inhalation of fumes produced during degradation of the coating. Temporary flue-like symptoms (known as polymer fume fever) can occur when the fumes from overheated fluoropolymers are inhaled. Typically the fluoropolymer coating would have to be heated to an excess of 500°F to begin to deteriorate. Fumes are not typically given off until the fluoropolymer significantly decomposes (660°F). Fats, butter, and cooking oil tend to scorch and smoke at only 400°F. When used properly Teflon® non-stick products are safe.

DuPont states “Teflon® cookware is formulated and quality tested to resist peeling or chipping, which will only occur if cookware is misused. However, in the event that particles from Teflon® cookware are accidentally eaten, there is no danger. These particles are non-toxic. If eaten, they pass directly through the body and are not absorbed. The FDA has stated that eating Teflon® particles does not pose a health hazard”.

In another matter, for the past six years the EPA and industry have been studying PFOA to determine what if any human health effects exist. PFOA is a polymerization aid, not an ingredient, used to help make fluoropolymers. It is largely removed during the final steps of polymer production and by the high temperatures used when most fluoropolymers are made into finished products. The EPA has said, “Although our risk assessment activities are not complete and new data may change the current picture, to date EPA is not aware of any studies specifically relating current levels of PFOA exposure to human health effects”. The EPA has also stated “At the present time, EPA does not believe there is any reason for consumers to stop using any products because of concerns about PFOA”.

Over the past six years there have been rumors, misconceptions, and unsubstantiated claims regarding PFOA, its safety, and its effect on Teflon® and other fluoropolymer coatings. In order to reduce concerns related to PFOA, industry has improved manufacturing processes and controls to reduce the use and emissions of PFOA. The EPA and industry have a stated goal of virtually eliminating the release of PFOA into the environment by 2015.