San Francisco Department of the Environment

Should I be concerned about using non-stick cookware?

Yes, you should be concerned. The chemicals used to manufacture non-stick coatings harm human health and the environment.

Per- and polyfluorinated compounds (PFAS)  are a class of chemicals used to make things non-stick, stain-resistant, and waterproof. Some microwave popcorn bags, fast-food wrappers, rain jackets and other consumer products use these chemicals’ slippery properties. Unfortunately, PFAS and their breakdown products accumulate in the environment and may harm human health, potentially causing abnormal thyroid hormone levels, reduced immune system response and cancer.

So, what about new non-stick cookware that claims to be non-toxic?

Some non-stick cookware may claim to not contain any or certain PFAS. Many of these types of cookware do not provide information about what chemicals are used instead. If you must use non-stick cookware, Green Science Policy Institute has compiled a list of PFAS-free products.

If possible, use stainless steel or cast iron.

When recipes call for a non-stick pan or other non-stick cookware, try substituting it with cast iron or stainless steel. These durable alternatives serve the same purpose when used properly. There are many coatings and materials marketed as healthy alternatives to non-stick, but cast iron and stainless steel are time-tested and proven to be safe. Check out quick tips to maintain and use cast iron: 

If you already own non-stick cookware, consider the following while using to prevent the release of PFAS:

  • Cook at medium and low temperatures and use ventilation.
  • Never cook on high heat, as this may release PFAS into food or the air.
  • Use wooden cooking utensils to prevent scratching the coating of the cookware, as scratches can promote the release of PFAS. 

Additional Resources

Green Science Policy Institute PFAS Central
Agency for Toxics Substances and Disease Registry Health Effects of PFAS
Berkeley Wellness Safer Cookware Options
The Guardian: What You Need to Know About PFAS


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