Use of Non-Stick Cookware

by updated 2010/08/28

Today’s post is by Anthony Vincent Samsel, a retired Hazardous Chemical Materials Consultant formerly with Arthur D. Little, Inc., in Cambridge, MA. Mr Samsel originally wrote this as a comment on one of my posts about why I stopped using  plastic coated, non-stick, cookware.  I have written a few times about non-stick coatings on cookware, but have done so from my own viewpoint, not any real personal scientific expertise.  This post provides a very scientific view on the topic.

I am writing to all persons using non-stick cookware, persons involved in the manufacture of PTFE & Fluoropropylene copolymers and products made from Fluoropolymers such as Wire & cable, Non-stick cookware, appliances etc.  It has been known for many decades that the products of thermal decomposition from Fluoropolymers are very dangerous to human health.

In 2003 the publication known as “The Analyst”, a trade magazine, published a paper written by David A. Ellis et al, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto in Canada. In that paper the authors identified some of the products of thermal decomposition from the plastic polymer PTFE aka Teflon and other trade names. The list of compounds is shown in Table one, below.

The authors did not consider gases such as carbonyl fluoride, hydrogen fluoride, & perfluoroisobutylene which are also released. Only the novel decomposition products were considered and these were found released starting at 250 degrees centigrade.  It should be noted that inhaled Carbonyl Fluoride Gas breaks down immediately when it comes in contact with the moist surfaces of the nose, throat and lungs. The decomposition products are Hydrofluoric Acid and Carbon Dioxide.  Hydrofluoric acid causes permanent scaring of tissue. In the lungs it causes Bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition often misdiagnosed and classified as Asthma (mild scaring) and COPD (severe scaring). The results are cumulative with exposure and worsening symptoms are irreversible.

Here is a section of the paper quoted below:

The use of F NMR and mass spectrometry for the elucidation of novel fluorinated acids and atmospheric fluoro acid precursors evolved in the thermolysis of fluoropolymers.

Authors: David A. Ellis et al
Department of chemistry university of Toronto”

Thermal decomposition of PTFE begins at 250 degrees centigrade or 482 degrees Fahrenheit. The following are some of the decomposition compounds cited in the scientific paper:

Table 1:

Chemical names, formula and acronyms of structures shown in Fig. 1 Structure Name Compound formula Acronym (PF-PerFluoro)

(I) Trifluoroacetic acid C2HF3O2 TFA
Pentafluoropropionic acid C3HF5O2 PFPrA
Heptafluorobutyric acid C4HF7O2 PFBA
Nonafluoropentanoic acid C5HF9O2 PFPeA
Undecafluorohexanoic acid C6HF11O2 PFHxA
Tridecafluoroheptanoic acid C7HF13O2 PFHpA
Pentadecafluorooctanoic acid C8HF15O2 PFOA
Heptadecafluorononanoic acid C9HF17O2 PFNA
Nonadecafluorodecanoic acid C10HF19O2 PFDA
Heneicosafluoroundecanoic acid C11HF21O2 PFUnA
Tricosafluorododecanoic acid C12HF23O2 PFDoA
Pentacosafluorotridecanoic acid C13HF25O2 PFTrA
Heptacosafluorotetradecanoic acid C14HF27O2 PFTeA

(II) These compounds are largely unreported in the literature. For simplicity we have elected to name them as the ether of the corresponding perfluoroacid.

(III) Dichlorofluoroacetic acid C2HFCl2O2 DCFA
(IV) Chlorodifluoroacetic acid C2HF2ClO2 CDFA
(V) Difluoroacetic acid C2H2F2O2 DFA
(VI) Monofluoroacetic acid C2H3FO2 MFA
(VII) Hexafluoropropene C3F6 HFP
(VIII) Chloropentafluoropropene C3F5Cl CPFP

In summary, toxic thermal decomposition products are cumulative at all exposure levels and should be avoided. They can be found in the blood and all major body organs. They have a particular affinity for brain tissue and may be a contributor to dementia including Alzheimer’s disease.

The use of PTFE & fluoropropylene copolymers in heated appliances and cookware should be avoided. The known health effects and multiple associated diseases are well documented in the scientific literature. Now is the time for action, for you and your family.

Anthony Vincent Samsel


Thank you Mr. Samsel for your contribution to this very important topic.

Will Sig

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