Some years ago I read that fumes emitted from non-stick cookware can be deadly to a pet bird, so I got rid of all my non-stick pans. I should have realized then that the toxic fumes could also be harmful to humans.
According to a new study published in this month’s Archives of Internal Medicine, the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) used in Teflon and nonstick pans may be linked to heart disease.
“About 98 percent of Americans have traces of PFOA in them, those with the highest levels of the chemical were found to have double the odds of heart disease when compared with those having the lowest levels.”
And those with higher PFOA had a 78 percent higher risk of peripheral heart disease—where arteries narrow and harden.
“Experimental animal studies suggest that an association between PFOA and CVD (cardiovascular disease) is plausible. However, this association in humans has not been previously examined. We therefore examined the independent relationship between serum PFOA levels and CVD outcomes in a representative sample of Americans.”
The study concluded exposure to PFOA is associated with CVD and PAD, independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors.
Renter warns that researchers stress there’s no hard evidence that PFOA causes heart diseases or increases its risk, but conditions do “co-exist.”
“What we are finding is that high levels of PFOA and cardiovascular disease coexisted for some reason. That is all,” said lead author Dr. Anoop Shgankar with the West Virginia University School of Public Health.
“It is possible that we are seeing something that is just a bystander and is there because of confounding associations.”
But Renter points out that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has been linked with other health problems. Both the EPA and Environmental Working Group consider PFOA a likely carcinogen.
PFOA has also been shown to cause low birth weight and organ specific oxidative DNA damage. Other research published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal claims those with higher blood levels of PFOA have a higher incidence of thyroid disease.
“But PFOA is still found in some nonstick pans—it’s the coating that allows people to use less oil,” writes Renter. “And with 98 percent of Americans walking around with PFOA in their bodies, it’s definitely something to be concerned about.”
If you must use Teflon coated pans, turn on your oven’s overhead fan. Better yet, as Renter points out, “Cast iron is a far better choice, and will last a lifetime.”