Teflon – You might not realise, but it’s everywhere!

There are a few things about Teflon to start with that by no means tell the full picture, but are certainly the list of things that caused me to immediately abandon ship on all things teflon:

  • Teflon is the trademarked name for the chemical Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) used in the manufacture of Teflon products and banned by 2015, breaks down indefinitely in the environment. So think about everything in the list below that you’ve ever owned. Just one person. So scary to think about those particles never breaking down and ending up in oceans and rivers and US!
  • The off gasses from Teflon products kill birds. It’s really well known in vet circles. This usually comes from Teflon in certain light bulbs or cookware.
  • The women working in the Dupont factory where Teflon is produced had high incidence of birth defects and abnormalities, which DuPont was forced to pay millions in damages once exposed. The worst part? DuPont had known for 20 years that the PFOAs in Teflon technology was harmful to people, yet they remained silent.
  • It takes a pan about 3.5 minutes to reach 738F on an electric stove top with your average non stick pan. Teflon off gases 6 toxic gases from reaching about 680F, including carcinogens, global pollutants and a lethal chemical MFA.
  • At 1000F we get into warfare gases and a WWII nerve gas. Still hungry? Unbelievable isn’t it. It seems so often that big business simply does not have our best interests at heart. It ‘s soooo time to break up with them.
  • There are elevated levels of cancers, including some very rare, in and around the village where the DuPont factory is located.
  • The most common symptom in every day Teflon use, is with a high temperature cold and flu. Rarely are the two connected by doctors.

We largely know Teflon for its non stick qualities. So where else is it hiding? You’ll be surprised!

  • Frying pans, woks and saucepans – opt for stainless, cast iron or enamel when cooking. I use the De Buyer brand of brushed stainless, that you have to season similarly to a wok before using. SolidTeknics is awesome too and Australian made. Both are non stick, especially with a good bit of coconut oil, ghee or butter and I like to oil the pans after cooking and wiping clean to keep building a home-made non stick coating. Other options are ceramic coated, high quality brands like Le Chasseur or Le Creuset. Don’t baulk at the price – I’ve still got my grandmother’s roasting dish from 1972 and mum’s frying pans from the 70s too. It lasts literally forever!
  • Dental Floss. Something I discovered a few months ago. You can read about dental floss here
  • Microwave popcorn bags – Best to pop in a saucepan – check my yummy recipe
  • Irons. The Sunbeam Aerosteam or the Tefal auto clean 400 are the only high quality ones that I’ve found, without the Teflon coating.
  • Hair straighteners, curling wands etc. Read the fine print on the packet and make sure it’s ceramic, stainless or don’t go near it!
  • Baking gear, including most parchment/grease proof paper! Opt for Stainless and do your good old fashioned butter and flour dusting to naturally ‘non stick’ your muffin, Madeleine or cake tins and opt for a parchment paper that is greener such as the fabulous If You Care soy wax for hot or silicon for cold coatings. Google ebay or etsy for stainless bakeware options and place an amazon order to your place you’re staying if traveling overseas so you can stock up on stainless bakeware without the postage fortune.
  • Carpets and sofas. Repeat after me: I will never tick ‘yes’ to free scotch guarding ever again! Any kind of sales pitch for stain repellent, liquid repellent technology, RUN A MILE and take your babies with you!
  • In a sports shoe shop. Step away from the scotch guard spray up-sell and take a pair of socks instead! If you have leather shoes, beeswax will be a fab water repellent and is all natural!
  • Waterproof mascara. Not in all of them, but Yes. It’s true. Check your brand. I buy this beautiful one. Just like my old favourite performance wise, minus all the extra weirdness!
  • Ironing board covers (not all. Check your brand / manufacturer)
  • Some light bulbs. Look for the words PTFEs or non stick to see whether your bulb is safe to buy or not. If you have pet birds or chickens, this is super crucial.
  • Toasted Sandwich makers, waffle makers, rice cookers and many plug in slow cookers and woks. Slow cook in large cast iron or enamel pans and put the lid on and dish into a low 130 oven. Easy. For rice? learn the absorption method. For toasted sandwiches?  Place your sandwich / wrap onto unbleached If We Care / other natural, parchment paper. Then, place another sheet on top and press as normal in the sandwich press. You can thank Mr Stuart for that genius tip, as he makes his way around a toxic free lunch in an office environment! Not easy…
  • Waterproof clothes, namely raincoats. Use umbrellas where possible.
  • Outdoor deck waterproofing sealants. There are natural ones available so it’s a matter of playing detective if you’ve got a renovation in the works.
  • In children’s uniforms! It will have a label and seems to be restricted to boy’s pants and shorts as far as I can see right now, which means you can find an equivalent colour, non teflon treated and avoid it. In large department stores or online, you can usually find cotton school-like colours. We’ve had success with it so far.
So there you have it. If you want to learn more about LOW TOX stuff, my flagship course “Go Low Tox” covers 22 daily life topics to help you reduce your toxic load and is instant and lifetime access.
Teflon hides in many places and while experts say the off gassing only occurs on high heat and with misuse, its bio-accumulation danger is one absolutely not to ignore. This planet is for our children and theirs. We’re not feeling the effects now, but picture the accumulation of billions of people using these products for a hundred years – in our oceans, inside us. It has been estimated that the particles in Teflon will take about 4.4 million years to break down. Takes me straight back to the thought ‘Don’t throw anything away. There is no away’. All those pans, raincoats, spent waterproof mascaras, frying pans… That there is certainly enough of a reason for me. You?
Low Tox. Happy People. Happy Planet.
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Geek links if you wanted to learn and read more here…

TEFLON EXPOSÉ in Mother Jones – EXCELLENT piece! 








Comments 31

  1. Hi Alex, not that I’d imagine you’d eat there anyhow but just an FYI to throw out there..The “plates” that are used to cook all meat for the hamburgers at McDonalds are wrapped in a large Teflon sheet. Considering it takes about 45 secs to cook and the meat comes into direct contact with these Teflon sheets is food for thought. They’re reused over and over each time being heated to a very high temp….at least it was used some years ago when I worked there – I can’t imagine things have changed…

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      Thx for the info Kate! 🙂 Lucky, I’ve not had to worry about that for years, but it does beg the question: How many restaurants / fast food take aways employ the same thing! Have a great week, Alexx.

  2. I don’t eat bread but you could always make a toastie how the Americans do it – on the stove in a pan! A stainless steel pan of course 😉
    Love this – currently scouring ebay for cheaper options to replace all non-stick cookware we have. Bye-bye sandwich press! x

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      Thanks Kate – Totally agree re sandwich press idea 🙂 Enjoy replacing all the old bake ware. The US is pretty economical and heaps of stainless and copper bake ware over there 🙂

  3. I’ve just found you’re website and I’m loving it! Thanks so much for sharing your efforts to live a green life. I would like to add that some of the most popular diaper bag brands use Teflon fabric protectors in the lining of the bags. As a mom, this is very disconcerting to me because these companies use this feature as a selling point to get moms to purchase these bags, touting the advantages of stain repellants.

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      Hi Maureen. Thanks so much for your lovely feedback. That’s terrible news re teflon coating in nappy bags. It is true if you eve see ‘stain repellant’ or non stick or water resistant, run a mile! That’s always been my rule since I understood what teflon really was. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and thanks for sharing, alexx.

  4. Hi Alexx,

    Love your website and FB page. I am trying to slowly replace all my cookware and bakeware. What would you recommend for cake tins and muffin pans. I recently bought a rather $$ muffin pan from a new US kitchen ware shop in Sydney – selling point was a ceramic coating. I researched when I got home to find this pan was just as bad as all non stick pans – am planning to return!! I have searched the internet but it seems healthy cookware is easy to find – not so much bakeware.
    thanks 🙂

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      Thanks Sue. I bought a couple of cake tins from ebay and there’s a hospitality trade shop on Riley St Surry Hills Chef’s Warehouse, that sells stainless cake tins and moulds also. You could also look at international sellers on ebay for anything specific you’re after. I’d recommend the chef knox regular frying pans from Chef’s Warehouse also. They’re a dark brushed stainless and to me, work just like a non stick with a little bit of butter or coconut oil in the pan. Superb and inexpensive. Ask the guys there. They’re very knowledgeable. Enjoy and try not to buy the whole shop – I sometimes want to!

  5. The school shorts at our uniform shop have a big “Teflon” tag on them- makes them dirt repellant and easily washable… Arrghhh!!!
    I might take this to the next school meeting and maybe convince them to source some plain cotton ones

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      Johanna – That sounds like a marvellous idea. Little ones don’t need these chemicals rubbing on their bodies, and what on earth is wrong with a good wash in the machine!? Everyone should be thrilled to know they’re also not feeding this industry by buying their products… Keep me posted OK?

  6. I’m just looking to replace some of my teflon coated pans as and when i can afford to. I’ve been looking at the le creuset cast iron pans that are finished with enamel. Where do these fit in to the scheme of things? I know that they last a very long time and I wanted to buy something that I would not have to replace, but I am unsure about the coating. Do you have any thoughts on this?

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      Hi Jenny. I can’t recommend Le Creuset enough. We have family pans handed down 2 generations now and still no signs of wear / scratching. Definitely worth the investment. For a non stick option, a hospitality professionals brand, De Buyer, makes a range of pans that you have to season. They’re inexpensive and the best for omelettes and scrambled eggs. Congrats on deciding to ditch the teflon! 🙂

      1. I’m so pleased that the Le Creuset is a good one to get! I’ve been eyeing them off and they come in such lovely colours. Now jsut to decide which one to get 🙂

  7. Excellent article Alexx, and we’re with you 100%!

    As you know now, Aussies make really good iron/steel pans, and we’re hoping to spread the news as far and wide as possible that natural seasoned iron is far healthier than toxic, disposable, synthetic coatings, and lasts forever, with a bit of care.

    Future generations will be looking back and shaking their heads, but at least there’s leaders like you helping make a difference. Keep up the awesome work!
    Mark Henry

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  8. Sadly I found out the hard way of Teflon being toxic for birds:( after having my beloved birdie birdie put down I read up on Teflon (the vets never mentioned it and I stay right away from Teflon!

    Can you please tell me what the harmful ingredient would be called in mascara?

  9. Hi Alex,

    Just wondering what brand or material you recommend for muffins pans? The only ones I’ve seen are either none stick or aluminium based.

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      I say use patty pans inside them if you can’t find anything stainless… I was int eh US for work last year so I ordered stainless bakeware from amazon and had it delivered there… It was one of the last things I swapped because of lack of availability! x

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  10. Hi Alexx!
    Thank you for all the education you provide us with!
    My Teflon frypan has died! Yay! Can you please recommend the best type of pan to replace it with.
    De buyer mineral b? De buyer blue force? Solidteknics?
    Thank you

  11. gah feeling guilty for buying a cheap electric frying pan because the rental we live in has a stove top that has killed my last 2 pans and i was to scared to buy a $200 solidteknics pan and have it wrecked (though since it better quality I’m sure that wouldn’t happen) Just found out last week we are getting a new stove! so I’m keen to get a good fry pan! i had no idea about the random places teflon can be found! mind blown. Thanks Alexx.

  12. Hi
    I have been trying to find a toxic free slow cooker for ages that I can buy in Australia. I have read that ceramic leaches lead. Any ideas. I could really like clay but can’t seem to buy it from the US here.

    Thanks Justine

  13. Hi Alexx, which brand of stainless steel muffin tins did you buy in the US? And is there a stainless steel waffle maker available in Australia? Thanks

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  14. You are confusing Teflon and PFAS. Teflon is made from PFAS components to to say a fast food wrapper, for instance, is made from Teflon is incorrect. Like Teflon, a fast food wrapper is made from a PFAS configuration. Teflon is generally used on hard surfaces, other variations of PFAS are used on dental floss, waterproof clothing, pizza boxes.
    It is more than just semantics.

  15. Hello, I realise this is an old post but both iron models you mention aren’t available. Are there any current alternatives that you can recommend?

  16. i am looking for a heat press to make shirts, hats, mugs… that doesnt contain teflon. can you recommend any that are affordable?

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