Growing up, my mom used to hold up our nonstick frying pan and declare, “This stuff can’t be good.” Like with so many other things, she has turned out to be completely right. According to a recent study at the department of nutrition at Harvard, Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) can cause people to gain weight.
In the study, over 600 subjects were analyzed after 6 months of dieting. Over the following 18 months after the diet, the subjects regained about half the weight they had lost–but those who regained the most weight had the highest blood concentration levels of PFASs. People with high PFASs were also shown to have lower metabolisms, as measured by their resting metabolic rate. Plus, the fact that PFASs disproportionally affect women (ugh!!) indicates that they harm estrogen metabolism.
But that’s not all: PFASs are also linked to testicular and kidney cancer, hypothyrodism, ulcerative colitis, immune problems, infertility, and high cholesterol.
PFASs are found in nonstick cookware, waterproof clothes, cosmetics, takeout containers, fast-food wrappers, carpet, stain-resistant furniture, popcorn, and hundreds of other common items. Up to 98% of Americans have PFASs in their bloodstream, and it is so pervasive that even polar bears in Greenland are contaminated with it. And it gets even better: PFASs are found in water systems serving 16 million people across 33 states, including California, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts. Yes, that means you DEFINITELY have it–and worse, it accumulates over time in all your organs. Including your brain (ugh ugh ugh).
As someone who almost exclusively cooks with nonstick, this is terrible news. I love the good sear you get when you cook tofu on nonstick!! But going forward, it sure looks like I’ll have to use my All Clad stainless steel pans a lot more. Unfortunately, the problem isn’t as simple as just quitting all nonstick. Like other 80,000+ chemicals available for sale in the U.S., PFASs are not regulated by the government. What you think of as an innocent takeout box may be coated in the heat- and oil-resistant PFASs, and your waterproof jacket for hiking might also have them. Even if you somehow manage to avoid the ubiquitous, unlabeled PFASs, they still take 3-8 years to leave your body.
It’s definitely an uphill battle, but here’s how you can best protect yourself against over-exposure to PFASs.
- Don’t eat fast food. Those innocent-looking wrappers around your burgers and sandwiches leech chemicals into your food–so not appetizing! While at it, dine in at the restaurant instead of getting take-out to avoid more chemical-lined containers.
- No to water-resistant furniture and raincoats. May I suggest this gorgeous trench coat by sustainable Swedish designer Filippa K? 100% cotton with PFC-free water repellency, woven in Italy at a solar-powered plant with 100% LED lights and a Greenpeace Detox commitment to reduce chemical use. Yes, yes yes!
- Don’t use nonstick that’s been scratched. Duh, no brainer! But how many of us have been like, “well it would be a waste to throw out this pan just because of this nearly invisible scratch!” Don’t play with fire and stop using. And don’t buy a new one! If it’s completely sealed and unharmed, however, experts say that it’s probably giving off negligible PFASs.
- Use stainless steel, cast iron, or ceramic cookware instead.
- Watch out for “PTFE” or “fluoro” ingredients in your shampoo and cosmetics, which are basically other names for PFASs.
I’m still mad that I’ll have to hand-wash my stainless steel pan after dinner, but it will be all worth it when I get a 6-pack in a few months. Haha, just kidding–but maybe not?! ;D
What do you currently cook with? Would you ditch nonstick?
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