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Teflon Coated Utensils and Cancer

Submitted by Stella Morgan on November 19, 2010

Teflon Cancer Risk

Cancer is an aggressive and progressive disease that is one of the leading causes of death in human beings. Cancer can occur in any part of the body and is usually named after the part of the body where the primary problem has occurred. Cancer usually develops as abnormal cells that form in a region and begin to grow into a tumor. A tumor is a collection of abnormal cells that are found in a region of the body. Some tumors may be non-cancerous while others are cancerous.

The progressive nature of cancer means that its early detection is essential for the purpose of treatment. Delays in treatment can drastically affect the individual’s chances of survival. Cancer treatment is usually difficult with an individual suffering from severe side effects while undergoing treatment.

Teflon is the brand name for a chemical compound known as PTFE. This compound has a wide variety of uses. It is commonly found in cooking applications as Teflon is used to line the cooking surfaces of many items of cookware.

The application of Teflon to these surfaces makes the surface non-stick. This means that cooking ingredients do not bond with the surface of the dish which can cause burning, improper cooking and difficulty in cleaning. Teflon is also used on manufacturing and is a feature of many machinery parts.

The coating of Teflon on wear parts that are constantly in friction makes them more durable. This is because the wear part is better lubricated. Teflon coatings are also used in automotive applications to seal the various components of a vehicle so that there is not corrosion in these parts.

Teflon is increasingly used in cookware and is considered to be healthy by most standard enforcement agencies across the world. However, in recent times, there is some concern about Teflon cancer risk. Teflon is a product that is capable of withstanding temperatures up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit above which it begins to degrade and lose its chemical bonding. This degradation may occur before it reaches its melting point. The Teflon cancer risk has been linked with an acid that is known as PFOA. This acid apparently seeps into food that is packaged using Teflon and related materials. It is also known to be passed into the food from non-stick pans and dishes used to cook food. Repeated exposure over a long period of time is reported to have caused problems relating to various important body organs including the liver and the kidneys. The risk of cancer is associated with a degradation caused to these vital organs.

It should be noted here that the Teflon cancer risk is still under investigation and is not proved or disproved. There are studies that give supporting evidence to the dangers associated with Teflon and its widespread use in cooking applications. However, none of these have been legally used in any country to conclusively prove that this is indeed a dangerous substance. As a result of this lack of legislation or legal action, Teflon continues to be produced, and widely used, in cooking appliances and utensils.

In these present times of advanced technology and changing lifestyles, a lot of new discoveries have been made to make our daily chores easier and faster to do. From the dawn of the stove, oven until the microwave oven, cooking has never been this easy to do. For every little problem or complaint with how a product works, there is always about ten inventions created to address the problem. When people had the problem of having their food always stick to the pots and pans while cooking, they invented a coating called Teflon. Made by a cancer causing raw material called perfluooctanoic acid or PFOA, it produces a non-stick coating for pots and pans which is fortunately free from any carcinogens, as assured by research from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
So, what is the basis of all the controversy on Teflon being able to cause tumors when used? This controversy is based on the premise that although Teflon is harmless to consumers, even if it is a product of a known carcinogen, extreme temperatures can cause it to give out toxins that are harmful to the body. These toxins can in turn cause cancer to develop which most probably explains why it is said that Teflon has the ability to cause tumors.

Cooking with Teflon is actually safe but the manner of cooking meat and other food products is usually what can produce carcinogens. When starch or sugar containing foods are cooked, the glucose tends to bind with proteins, forming Advanced Glycated end products or AGEs. In the same way with meat, when it is charred, grilled, or fried, the burnt portion gives out polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. These AGEs and PAHs can both cause cancer and tumors to form especially when foods containing these substances are frequently ingested, although research still has to show the direct pathway leading to it.
Knowing these things, you would wonder what else is not safe to eat since a lot of the foods being sold in the market are either known carcinogens or can probably be carcinogenic. Cooking with utensils and pans that are lined with Teflon are said to be healthy because you do not need to use a lot of oil to be able to cook your food, hence lessening the fat content of your food. But since extreme heat can trigger the production of toxins, be cautious when cooking, even without Teflon lined utensils. It is always best to boil the food in water instead of frying. It is healthier because it preserves the nutrients as well as does not produce any toxins. But if the best way to cook a certain dish is to fry it, some suggest putting in garlic to oppose the effects of PAHs produced by the food during frying. When frying, avoid using Teflon lined pans to avoid further production of toxins.  

The bottom line is to take care of what you eat. Foods that are known to cause cancer should be avoided and replaced by healthier ones. It is not the food that you eat that should control your lifestyle but you yourself should take control of the food that you eat to control your lifestyle.  

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