How poisonous is Teflon?


Simplistic answer would be that Teflon (a brand name) o […]

Simplistic answer would be that Teflon (a brand name) or PTFE, (polytetrafluoroethylene) -as most polymers- is not toxic, since they can’t be absorbed by our system. They just pass our gastrointestinal tract.

Obviously it is not so simple.

Teflon in e.g. non-stick cookware is not stable if you (over)heat them.

You will find all kinds of horrors stories splattered over the internet. Just google ‘TEFLON KILLS BIRDS’ to give you one example.

I will not try to discus those, But I do want to highlight the impact of PTFE manufacturing.

One of the chemicals is e.g. PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid or C8)
It is (or was) used in the manufacturing process (it is not part of the final product). This molecule is very stable. Studies have shown that in virtually every American a low concentration of this molecule could be found.

There is a debate about toxicologists if it is harmless or dangerous.

Toxicology is not a straightforward subject. Animal studies have shown that it has an effect on e.g. monkeys but it is very hard to tell if the actual concentrations as found in human population is or would be harmful for humans.

Anyhow the emission of PFOA and higher Homologues are now reduced using the so called “Best available technology” strategy.

Latest progress report that I could retrieve is from 2014 :2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program - 2014 Annual Progress Reports

In Europe similar programs exist, not sure how the situation is in e.g. Asian countries, but many of the companies act worldwide.

Just a final note: Teflon cookware is used to prevent burning of food. Burnt/charred food can contain various amount of carcinogenic substances. E.g. Benzo(a)pyrene. Google it: really scary stuff. Best prevention against those nasty chemicals is to boil your steak. (It doesn’t taste anymore, but it sure is healthier.)

Nothing we do in human society is without risk but it does amaze me that society or a at least a part of society wants zero risks.