Is there such a thing as a safe non-stick pan?
Mary, Ottawa

There are safer alternatives to frying pans and cookware coated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) — a key chemical found in Teflon. Try cooking with stainless steel, glass, ceramic or cast iron instead. Dupont, one of the eight major manufacturers of PFOA, plans to phase out the chemical by 2015. The good news is that you can start now. And you should.

Aside from choosing safer cookware, you can reduce your exposure by avoiding consumer products coated with non-stick chemicals. These include some types of dental floss, microwave popcorn bags, windshield cleaning solution and even pizza boxes. Also, watch for products that maybe appear safe but have non-stick inserts, like rice cookers.

Most pans get too hot in our day-to-day cooking, releasing PFOA and other toxic substances. Then as they age and wear, the coating can flake off into our food. PFOA is a suspected carcinogen and hormone disruptor that we know stays in the body and our environment forever. About 95 per cent of us have PFOA in our bloodstream, including newborn infants. It has also been detected in marine animals and our cherished polar bears.


Before you ditch your scratched-up frying pan, check out your city’s recycling guidelines or give its recycling hotline a call. Old non-stick pots and pans cannot be placed in your blue bin. Chances are you will need to drop them off at a depot that accepts scrap metal.

With safer alternatives out there, Teflon-coated cookware just isn’t worth the risk. Switch to more eco-friendly options today.

Lindsay Coulter gives you the straight goods on living green. Send your questions to For more great tips, visit The David Suzuki Foundation at

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