How Non-Stick Cookware Can Be Toxic & How To Avoid It


If you love to cook, then you probably love non-stick cookware. The easier the clean-up, the better, especially at the end of a long day. You worked, you cooked dinner, you ate said dinner and now all you want to do is get cozy for the evening. So, using cookware that requires very little maintenance is pretty awesome. Unfortunately, those easy breezy, oh so slick non-stick pans we all love are - you guessed it - toxic! Non Toxic Revolution is here to help.

The Problems with Non-Stick Coating

Have you ever wondered about the components of non-stick pans that make them, well, non-stick? As it turns out, it’s a combination of chemicals which release toxic gasses and particles into the air WHEN HEATED. Why would something used for cooking be toxic when heated? Beats me.

It appears that there are multiple chemical makeups to non-stick pans. The slipperiness of non-stick pans is from fluorinated chemicals called PFAS and PFCs which are known to be highly toxic and persistent in both our bodies and the environment. When heated, multiple chemicals get released into the air. One of these is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which is linked to thyroid disease, reproductive problems, cancers, and other big health concerns. Other pans are coated with polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), more commonly known as Teflon. Teflon is part of the fluorinated PFC category. Common symptoms of Teflon exposure is the risk flu-like symptoms, literally called “Teflon Flu”, as well as other health issues. Remember, these chemicals are bad for the environment, too. The EPA says PFCs present "persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity properties to an extraordinary degree.”

 Another big problem with non-sticks if the type of utensils you use with them. If your non-stick is old and scratched up, then you’ve been ingesting the chemical coating with your food which is not great. Always use bamboo, wood, or other similar types of utensils with cookware that scratches easily.

Non-Toxic Cookware Options

Luckily, there is a wide spectrum of safe cookware options. They range in material, prices, easiness of cleaning, etc. Wellness Mama has a really handy list of non-toxic cookware if you want to check that out (she even updates it with deals!). We’ll break down some of our favorites here for your convenience as well.

Cookware materials vary a bit for stovetop and the oven, of course. There is some overlap, which is great, sometimes even with the same product! For example, you could use cast iron pans both on the stove and in the oven - they work wonderfully for recipes that require both! Safe ovenware materials include glass, cast iron, ceramic, corningware (the white casserole dishes that everyone has stashed away somewhere), various stone (especially for baking) and more. For the stove, safe materials include cast iron, ceramic, stone, and metals like stainless steel or even copper if you’re feeling fancy! Always check the product information to ensure glazes and other sealants are safe!

All of these different materials require different cleaning methods, some as easy as non-sticks! Cast iron has the most specific cleaning process as it needs to be seasoned to prevent sticking, and need to be dried completely after washes to prevent rust. Cast irons can be a little bit of work if you are not used to them, but they last for practically forever, and the longer you use them the better they get. The pan that tends to be the most tricky is cheaper stainless steels - things can stick pretty easily. Lower flames and the right amount of oils - or whatever you use to cook with - are helpful in preventing stuck-on foods. It is best to hand wash all of your cast iron, ceramic, stone, and metals like stainless steel or even copper if you’re feeling fancy! Always check the product information to ensure glazes and other sealants are safe!

Potential for Non-Toxic Non-Stick?

Interestingly enough, there are now some non-stick pan companies that claim to be non-toxic. GreenPan makes their slippery coating out of their patented Thermolon™ technology which they say is safe and healthy. We suggest sticking to our proposed alternatives, but maybe keep your eye on them in case more studies are done which prove that their products are indeed safe.

Throw out those scary toxic pots and pans and find the safe cookware that works best for you. Remember to always use plastic-free cooking utensils that won’t scratch your pans and to handwash to ensure your products don’t rust or break down. Do your research on the best ways to use and care for your cookware.



Bree Flory

Bree is a vegan, coffee and beer loving, intersectional feminist who is particularly invested in health. She has a degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from CSULB, where she spent her time turning her passions into academic activism. When she’s not busy spreading awareness on living a non toxic lifestyle, she is most likely taking a long bath, cooking extravagant vegan food, or crying about dogs.