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The Teflon Toxin (firstlook.org)
357 points by sidko on Aug 12, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 255 comments



What struck me most about this article is how much rationalization occurred. I'm amazed that a (presumably licensed) doctor can in one breath say they have a moral responsibility to safeguard the public, their workers and the environment, then in the next breath describe why the results of their own study didn't apply.

But looking inward, I wonder if our industry doesn't do the same thing in many cases - what about:

- Eye strain caused by lack of contrast due to our favorite color palette.

- Stress induced by unintelligible workflows.

- Failure to protect a user's privacy.

- Programs that induce RSI.

I realize this is a far cry from polluting the environment with toxins, but shouldn't we at least think about these factors more often?


> - Failure to protect a user's privacy.

Advertising is our C8. It pollutes nearly every corner of the web with deception and manipulation. It is the cause of the cancer called click-bait. It is so profitable it has given rise to factories that pump out cheap junk "content", overwhelming anything of merit on the web[1][2]. Then, to extract even more from the devil in this Faustian bargain, we invade our very customer's privacy, selling our soul twice over.

Most of us avert our eyes from this moral abdication because it funds our high salaries and our get-rich-quick startup schemes[3]. Everyone seems happy with their "free" non-stick pans and waterproof boots, so why spoil the party?

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair

If you agree with me, send me an email. I'm starting a project to whistle blow, to raise awareness, to inspire change.

[1] Most people will miss this article about C8 because it doesn't stand a chance against all the ad-supported garbage. The Intercept doesn't do click-bait. Journalism, a cornerstone of democracy, is dying. This toxin analogy is sadly too accurate.

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8585237

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9961761

-

> I realize this is a far cry from polluting the environment with toxins, but shouldn't we at least think about these factors more often?

Yes, demand a better work environment, but please don't compare "eye strain caused by lack of contrast due to our favorite color palette" and "Stress induced by unintelligible workflows" with an environmental toxin that never existed until we created it, is now "in the blood of 99.7 percent of Americans", causes cancer and birth defects, and may outlive humanity. Many jobs have some stress on the body or mind or risks to life and limb (manual labor, fire fighting). It is called "work" after all. The fire department is not being evil. Dupont and 3M are. I hope you can see the difference.


I said it was a far-cry!

I don't work in the chemical industry and other than complaining, I can't effect much change in how it operates. I can however make life better for those using the software I create. As many others have pointed out, there are many more categories. I'll even add another - efficiency. I should create my software to use the least amount of resources possible. Eventually CPU and memory usage equate to power consumed from the grid.


> Advertising is our C8.

This. Not to mention the malware that hitches rides on ad networks. Adblockers being the new condoms and all that.


Nah, we can always protect ourselves from ads or malware. Worst case we can go completely offline or use an extremely locked down system.

C8 and similar compounds pollute the only inhabitable planet we have access to, there's no escape from the pollution. The man-made C8 will remain in the water and soil far longer than any human will be around, but before that it will accumulate in our bodies and poison us. And C8 is just one such compound, how many more are there?


In the various recent threads about open office plans, some people have pointed out that extended use of headphones, at the volume required to shut out conversation, causes permanent hearing loss over the long term. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a tech company that takes that concern seriously.


You can use noise canceling headphones/ear buds to avoid the chatter and lower the volume.

At ~300$ there not cheap, but not only do they help save your hearing they are also less distracting for those around you.


>avoid the chatter

If active noise canceling seems to lower conversation volume, it is because you've convinced yourself it should. No DSP located on your ear can analyze and cancel an unpredictable signal like conversation before it reaches your ear. It can be effective against drone sounds like motors, rushing air, etc. because the same cancellation signal works now as did 100ms ago. This is not true of human speech.

Opt for a pair of well-fitting in-ears. If you have the money, see an audiologist for a custom fit. With high-quality earbuds and a good seal, you can play music at a very low level and still 1) hear all its detail, and 2) not perceive outside sounds.


1 v 1 they don't work, but they seem to help with 1 v 100 open office situations where the background of 100 people working. Granted, this might be by blocking the AC and other background sounds. But, I don't care why they help just that they do.


I find the chatter of 100 (and AC and other background sounds) soothing and even necessary. It's when I can pick out individual conversations that I can't help but stop what I'm doing and process them.


Active noise cancelling still adds to the absolute volume, doesn't it? I use some headphones intended for muffling yardwork at the lowest setting to have music drown out frequent background noises (carts moving by, nearby keyboards) but not necessarily uncommon things like people chattering.


>> Active noise cancelling still adds to the absolute volume, doesn't it?

Noise canceling works by playing back the exact environmental frequencies through the headphones, 180 degrees out of phase. So from the perspective of your ears, noise canceling does lower the absolute volume.


The phase-shifted signal from active noise canceling electronics only actually achieves physical cancellation if the signal it's attempting to cancel hasn't changed. By the time the phase-shifted response to a dynamic signal like speech comes out of the speaker, the signal it's trying to cancel is gone, and there is in fact more sound coming to your ears.


Thanks for correcting me. I knew the physics behind it, so I'm not entirely sure why I've never self corrected that belief.


I find that nice pair of in-ear etymotics with their biggest foam tips is the best way to block out noise.

The noise isolation is so strong that I can't even listen to music at higher than half volume without discomfort.


Seconding this. I love my etymotics. You can get a pair these days for about 70 bucks (or less). Take the time to try out different tips to find ones that are most comfortable.


The pressure on the skull also causes headaches in a lot of people, which is why most of the people in my office don't use them, even though the company pays for them.


I think points are valid and worth considering, but unless new research finds something entirely new, "eye strain" doesn't damage your eyes.

From the American Academy of Ophthalmology:

"Watching televisions, including LCDs and flat screens, can't cause your eyes any physical harm. The same is true for using the computer too much or watching 3-D movies. Your eyes may feel more tired if you sit too close to the TV or spend a lot of time working at the computer or watching 3-D movies, but you can fix that by giving your eyes a rest."

http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/living/five-vision-myths...


Tell that to my computer use induced Blepharitis.


>my computer use induced Blepharitis.

Do you have evidence that computer use was a factor in your development of Blepharitis, or do you think that because of the correlation between the two?


How did computer use cause oily buildup, bacterial infection, and eyelid inflammation?


The most serious is ignoring the effects of sitting all day. Employers tout their big monitors and new laptops but I've never seen one advertise treadmill workstations.

Another rationalization is that longer work hours are somehow mutually beneficial but I find the opposite to be true.


>but I've never seen one advertise treadmill workstations. Look again. Anecdotally, I have actually seen them advertise this, and my company decided to get two. I see people using it all the time, but I have yet to see anyone do in depth work requiring interaction with the machine, mostly just reading and researching.


I was working at a treadmill workstation for 8 hours a day coding. Physically it felt great but eventually the number of hours concentrating on code wore me down. Now I work two hours a day on code and spend the rest of the day doing other activities. I was burned out coding at regular hours which makes me incredulous of those who claim productivity at 60+ hours a week.


>- Eye strain caused by lack of contrast due to our favorite color palette.

An anecdote: A couple of years ago during a stressful time at work I was fitted for prescription lenses. While being indecisive about choosing frames, I installed f.lux and reduced brightness of my monitors. Never ended up buying glasses, and in a couple of weeks my vision was back to normal. It was just eye strain, and I saved about $300.

Edit: changed "Flux" to "f.lux"


+1 for f.Lux!

Unfortunately, 35 years of typing in front of a screen has led to trifocals for me (or maybe I would have needed them anyway?).


that and the "hacker vision" extension on chrome.


And the settlement reached was around 0.0086 DuPont's yearly revenue to be provided for education, water treatment facilities and medical expenses of the class action members.

Is that really going to deter them from doing it again? Where is the real penalty?

http://www.hpcbd.com/Personal-Injury/DuPont-C8/C8-Class-Acti...


> And the settlement reached was around 0.0086 DuPont's yearly revenue to be provided for education, water treatment facilities and medical expenses of the class action members.

> Is that really going to deter them from doing it again? Where is the real penalty?

Stefano Quintarelli, an Italian ISP-owner-turned-ITC-journalist has the nice habit of converting those "huge" fines ("millions of euros!") into equivalent fines for people with normal incomes. In this case he would write

"The equivalent fine for a person with an average income of € 30k per year would had been € 258."


this is great, I'd like to see this in every news article!


It's a settlement, not a fine. The value is a function of damages, discounted by litigation risk and time. Revenues has nothing to do with it. If I negligently burn down your shed, what I owe you in a tort action has nothing to do with how much money I make.


And what if you made all of that money precisely because you were burning down sheds?

Granted, the more just and commensurate judgement that lumberjack rightly seeks must be paid to the world as a whole, with the workers' share being a function of their damages, as you said. My point is you are focusing on the technical and completely ignoring the moral cry for justice expressed by lumberjack.


I'm focusing on the technical and ignoring the "moral cry for justice" because I'm making a technical point, not a moral one. The primary purpose of the tort system is compensation, and only indirectly deterrence. There are more appropriate avenues for punishment and deterrence, such as criminal actions.


Fair enough, except that you and I know the latter never happens.


It surprises me that there are not more cases where the productive assets of a business are turned over to plaintiffs to generate multi-year revenue for mitigation of effects and compensation for victims, especially in cases of serious long-term environmental contamination.


Take the number of vehicles in the field, (A), and multiply it by the probable rate of failure, (B), then multiply the result by the average out-of- court settlement, (C). A times B times C equals X...If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

What applies to the Car Industry (via Dialogue from Fight Club) applies to the Chemical Industry in Spades. DuPont Knew (or strongly suspected) that C8 & (Teflon) were causing Cancers, Birth Defects etc. But the cost was going to be too high to move away so they all "kicked the can down the road".

Time to sock them with a multi-billion dollar verdict after some of these people are locked up for long periods.


This whole thing reminds me of GE not only dumping pollutants into the Hudson River - but eventually spending more on legal battles to avoid a cleanup, than the cleanup would have cost. It's sickening.

But your point is correct - it's a cost of doing business. You put the cost of the cleanup and being sued against the cost of not polluting in the first place. Sadly this algebra is useful in externalizing hidden costs of pollution.


For all uninitiated in Fight Club (like I am) here's the quote that explains the reference:

"Narrator: A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

Business woman on plane: Are there a lot of these kinds of accidents?

Narrator: You wouldn't believe.

Business woman on plane: Which car company do you work for?

Narrator: A major one."


The crazier thing is that for negligence torts (cars would be products liability, which is different), that's exactly how the law works.

It's called the "Hand Formula" and you are only liable for negligence when PL > B, where P is the probability of loss, L is the gravity of loss, and B is the cost of avoiding the risk.

In practice though, it can be hard to argue that sort of thing. It's a little academic.


Yes, of course. In a resource-constrained world, i.e. the world we live in, spending more on prevention than the expected loss makes no sense.

Refusing to spend $10 to avoid a $5 expected loss is not negligence, it's economic common sense.

(You should still be liable for the loss if someone else is experiencing the risk. You should be liable to compensate them fairly, but it's not negligence).

In fact in a world with scarce risk prevention resources, PL = B is not even a sufficient criteria to say you should spend to prevent the risk, because there might be opportunities to prevent greater losses elsewhere; i.e. you should not be investing to prevent PL = B type risks if there exists PL >>> B type risks. (For a finance analogy, if you are capital-constrained, you don't want to put your money in any investment with a positive ROI, you want to put you money in investments that have the highest ROI.)

In other words, spending $10 to prevent a $10 expected loss risk when there is an opportunity to prevent a $100 expected loss risk for the same expenditure makes no sense.

But since we're not smart enough to cooperate and globally allocate the total risk-prevention budget to minimize losses, locally and in terms of personal responsibility PL = B is a decent rule.


Ford Motor Company Management 101


Actually, if we go by recent claims, GM is the winner (loser) here


GM didn't even make that calculation, did they? I thought they just sort of covered it up and hoped nobody would notice. Say what you will about cold-blooded calculations, but at least Ford analyzed the situation.


GM had a bad engineer, as well as poor engineering practice (not properly tracking Engineering Work Orders and part changes), along with poor understanding of the ignition/electronic system.

Source - Valukas Report

Disclaimer - I work for GM


I've never understood the gravity of Teflon pans. I can never seem to keep them non-stick, whether it be because of using too high of heat or somehow scratch the damn thing.

So, I got cast irons. It's trivial to keep them seasoned and thus non-stick, and they can take the beating of very high heat -- searing meats -- and any metal utensils or rough substances.


While teflon pans are the most famous household use of teflon, they don't appear to be a significant route for these compounds getting into human bodies [1]. The main route is environmental contamination of crops and sources of drinking water, not contamination during cooking or household storage. The main sources of the environmental contamination seem to be industrial discharges, and the use of firefighting foams that contain PFOA/PFOS.

[1] See the paper linked in another comment, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10046612


Teflon pans are cheap, and you don't have to care for them at all. Just throw it in the dishwasher and after a year or so get a new one.

Having said that, I'm really liking the two nonstick ceramic pans I bought a few months ago, and I'm not sure if I'll need to toss them next year, yet.


The T-Fal one I have has been going strong for a few years now (maybe 3?). The trick is to NEVER put it in the dishwasher. Hand wash only. It's the easiest thing ever to hand wash, since nothing sticks, and most of the water drips off before I grab the towel.


Literally the only they tell you not to do with non-stick pans is stick it in the dishwasher.


"Teflon pans are cheap ... after a year or so get a new one."

Really? "Real" nonstick pans (not walmart) sell for something like $40 to $100+ a piece, but cast iron (Lodge Inc, etc) sells for something like $20. So CI works better, last forever, is cheaper, and its less toxic.

Its true that you can buy a pan shaped object from walmart for $5 that doesn't really work, but in all fairness the CI equivalent is the "free to a good home" pile of CI at an estate sale, so CI is still cheaper.

I will say there is one, exactly one use for teflon pans and thats burned cheese or burned eggs. Just something about it chemically that makes it stick to cast iron. Yet meats don't stick, very strange.


I've had two of the Lodge cast iron pans crack completely, and being able to dishwash the nonstick pans saves me a lot of time.


Crack? Like fall apart? What are you doing man?! It's freaking iron!!!! I'm using my great-great grandmothers pan all the time and it's amazing despite being from the 1800's


There are many reasons why a cast iron skillet inexplicably cracks.

Poor quality control in manufacturing, natural crystalline formation defects, excessive impacts in handling, extreme thermal stresses, etc.

Cast iron, being a non-ductile material, in the daily thermal cycling of cooking, any minute microscopic fissure will start to propagate through a process known as metal fatigue, and eventually fail catastrophically.

To some degree, cast iron can be annealed or hardened, depending on your cooking habits. Something I do which I would not recommend to anyone else: I buy cheap cast iron cookware, heat it up red hot and pour cold water in it. If it didn't crack, them I heat it up again in an oven and let it cool down as slowly as possible to anneal any internal stress.

In any case, if the skillet is of great value to you, there are places that actually can repair it for you.

As a last tip, stop practicing skillet abuse and trying to be an iron chef. :-)


Can it really anneal at normal oven temperatures? Cast iron has a melting point of 2200F -- so how can 500F oven do anything?


I looked it up and the truth is in between. You get "ferritizing" annealing starting at 1300F. Microscopic amounts of that will happen at 500F but nothing significant. Thank you, now I will stop wasting my time with this piece of folklore...


You can buy an original Tefal pan for like $15-20, if it lasts a year that's ok with me. I wouldn't trust the no-brand $5 stuff either, but I would think that Tefal pans should be ok?


That stuff is just more toxicity. The non stick vaporizes at high temperatures (the Teflon website will warn against small birds in the kitchen... And that's the Teflon website!!!), and all those knicks and scratched are material coming off and into your food.

There's no need for toxic cookware. Get high quality cast iron and you can give it to your future generations like my grandmother did for me. And if that flakes into your food, it's just iron which your body needs!


The teflon on pans is inert and non toxic. It would not be digested if it was scratched off and in your food.


"the Teflon website will warn against small birds in the kitchen..."

But Big Bird is okay in the kitchen? ;-)


Having a bird in the kitchen is just a bad idea (unless you are going to eat it). If you overheat oil, that becomes toxic as well and will kill a small bird the same as overheating teflon.


You might have a house with a kitchen next to the living room and no door in between, and if you've got everything closed up in winter you can kill a bird in a nearby room with Teflon toxicity. Overheating oil will not kill a small bird, and even some quick smoke inhalation won't necessarily kill a bird.

Smoke inhalation and Teflon toxicity are really different death mechanisms -- if you're interested, a quick read of the abstracts of articles on mass bird deaths from PTFE toxicity at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10879927 or http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3276392/ is illuminating.


Cooking oil fumes (not smoke) are toxic as well.

Butter in cast iron is toxic at 260 degrees. Teflon isn't toxic until 280 degrees.

Check out http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4723395

> Abstract: Japanese quail and parakeets were exposed to the pyrolysis products of: (1) commercial fry pans coated with Teflon® finish, (2) plastic fry pan handles, (3) corn oil, and (4) butter. Other materials used in the test were commercial aluminum fry pans and cast iron fry pans. A four-hour Approximate Lethal Temperature (ALT) was determined for each test material for each specie. All products tested were lethal to Japanese quail with ALT's ranging from 260° C for butter in cast iron to 370 °C for a plastic handle in a glass container. The ALT for a fry pan coated with Teflon® finish was 330°C. All products were also lethal to parakeets with ALT's of 260°C for both the pan coated with Teflon® finish plus butter and the cast iron pan plus butter. The ALT for a fry pan coated with Teflon® finish was 280°C.


Great. More synthetic and toxic crap in our landfills. All for our myopic convenience.

Dupont and 3M love you.


Well that and really good omelettes!


Teflon is not toxic. Some precursors are but once made it's completely inert.

And a frying pan is mostly metal, it'll get recycled at some point and the teflon burned away anyway.


If you're doing wok cooking, you can get to 900 degrees, although most of us who did not have the gas company adjust the stove for optimal Chinese cooking don't get quite that high. 600 F isn't crazy in wok cooking on a stovetop, though, and Teflon is not guaranteed to retain its properties above 400F. [1,2] Here's a PSA: Teflon-coated woks suck anyway!

Remember that Teflon and related products aren't only for stovetop use. There are many non-stick baking sheets and muffin pans as well, and it's not that unusual to cook muffins, scones, cakes, or pizza (esp pizza [3]) at temperatures above 400. Moreover, using the broiler can quickly get you to a high temperature.

Interestingly, there are a lot of documented cases of bird death in conjunction with Teflon usage [4]. Birds are very sensitive -- hence "canary in coal mine" -- but it is interesting to see that bird death can happen during normal use of Teflon and related products, certainly at temperatures below 400F.

[1,2] http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/06/the-food-lab-for-the-best..., http://www.boedeker.com/ptfe_p.htm [3] http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-homemade-thin-crust-pizza-re... [4] http://www.ewg.org/research/canaries-kitchen/teflon-kills-bi...


'not toxic' - until you heat it above its suggested operating temperature - which as I recall is about the temp of a 'high' setting on a stove.


If you heated it that high you would have smoke in your kitchen from the oil catching fire.

The operating temperature of teflon (approx 600f) is higher than the operating temperature of the oil (approx 400f) you cook with.


You keep saying this. You've said it many times in this thread. 1) there are lots of different kinds of oils each with their own distinct flash points and toxicities. Olive oil has one of the lowest flashpoints and has very little toxicity when burned. 2) Not all cooking is done with oils. 3) even if oil is toxic, it seems to be something that is a required part of cooking - we assume the risk. Teflon, not so much. 3) Teflon does get that hot in the course of regular cooking. And it releases toxic fumes under those conditions. Saying oil is bad too does not negate what teflon is doing. Especially when there are choices for pans/cookware that do NOT release fluorocarbons at high temperatures.


> and has very little toxicity when burned

When burned with a wick, no. But if just heated till is smokes? Just as toxic as any oil.

> even if oil is toxic, it seems to be something that is a required part of cooking - we assume the risk. Teflon, not so much.

Oil does not have to be toxic. Just don't exceed the smoke point. And like oil, in normal cooking Teflon is not toxic either. It's completely inert.

> Teflon does get that hot in the course of regular cooking. And it releases toxic fumes under those conditions.

No it does not. No one cooks at over 660f. (OK, maybe some specialized stuff, but not with regular cooking where you would use a pan.)

> Especially when there are choices for pans/cookware that do NOT release fluorocarbons at high temperatures.

Like Teflon? Which does not release them either?


I don't recall reading that caveat on the box my teflon pans arrived in.


Ceramic pans and when they get older still use them , prefer extra virgin coconut oil , Iam thinking at least somewhat safer then the Teflon pans.


Gotta love the cast irons, inherited one that's about 50 years old, took me a while to season it properly, but now it's working like a charm. When you take good care of them, they will last for several generations.


For casual home cooks I'd recommend hard anodized aluminum. It's an excellent non-stick surface, easily hand washable, non-toxic, fairly durable, and low cost. Really as long as you aren't constantly gouging it with metal things then it'll hold up for years and years.

Cast iron is great too though, don't get me wrong.


Is that wise? Al cookware has questionable safety.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium#Health_concerns

These guys recommend stainless or cast Fe. http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=dailytip&dbid=92


From your wikipedia link: Although the use of aluminium cookware has not been shown to lead to aluminium toxicity in general


> Al cookware has questionable safety.

Aluminum yes, but hard anodized is alumina which is a different compound, also called ruby and emerald. It's very very hard (as you can tell since it makes gemstones) and completely inert to cooking materials.

Confusing aluminum and hard anodized is like confusing chlorine and table salt.


Using Aluminum cookware does not result in a significant ingestion of Aluminum, hard anodized Aluminum even less so.


I bought this set: http://www.costco.com/Circulon%C2%AE-Premier-Professional-Ha...

Not only does the hard anodized surface work well, the lids have small holes where the spout of the pan is so that you don't need to use a colander.



What about ceramic pans?


ceramic is a great option, as long as you take care of it (don't scrub with abrasive, etc.) I switched recently to ceramic pans and I love the look and feel, silky smooth and glossy white surface!


Teflon pan should never be heated without oil or something else on it. Heating it empty will vaporize the Teflon, which could be toxic when breathed. Also, use only plastic utensils when cooking so you won't scratch it.


You would have to heat it pretty hot for that! Like almost glowing.

I've put a blowtorch to teflon when sweating copper and very little happened to it.

> which could be toxic when breathed

At equal temperatures oil is more toxic than teflon.


You can also use wooden utensils


I'd bet the issue is that you did not season the teflon pans (yeah, just about the same way as a cast iron pan...) and that you regularly use the pans at a very high heat which isn't exactly a teflon pan's forte.

Teflon doesn't like high heat or rapid temp changes.

Here's a really good article on use and care from Fine Foods Mag:

http://www.finecooking.com/articles/the-science-of-nonstick-...


Off topic, but did you know the word "forte" in that context is pronounced "fort" not "for-tay"?

I just learned that recently.


Both pronunciations are now standard.[1]

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/forte

The pronunciation for the Italian word for strong/strength is "for-tay"


Italian --> English: forte --> loud. French --> English: forte --> strength.

In French, forte is pronounced "fort" In Italian, forte is pronounced "fortay"

In English, the pronunciation of forte depends on which language you borrowed it from. It inherits its proper pronunciation from the source language.

BTW, English --> Italian: strength --> forza.


I wouldn't say its a standard. It's more that those who do pronounce it correctly can't be bothered correcting a sea of semi-literates any longer. Dictionaries are no longer the bastion of language they once were as they now stuff in new faddish words at the drop of a hat.

Too bad they don't also have a removal process to remove them once they've had their few years of trendiness and are forgotten.


I think you have that backwards -- it would appear it's pronounced ˈfȯrt when used as a technical term of the the strong part of a sword hilt -- but not here, as it is used as a reference to a certain tools strong use-case?

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forte


The OED gives the bisyllabic pronunciation for all meanings, with a note saying that the monosyllabic pronunciation used to be used.


Yep. That's how the word was taught to me. In the US, quite a few people say it as "fort."


I've lived in the US my whole life, and I've never heard anyone pronounce it "fort" in this context.


How do you keep them seasoned? I tried a couple of times, but couldn't get it right. Could you give me some tips?


Serious Eats has a very comprehensive guide [1]. The short version is rub lightly with canola oil, put in hot oven for about 30 minutes. Take it out and oil again. Repeat 3-5 times.

The only thing you need to avoid while cooking is overly acidic foods. If you try to make a tomato sauce in it you will see the seasoning flake off. That's not good, but is very easily fixed by repeating the above steps.

To clean it, scour the plan with kosher salt and a paper towel. Once clean, coat lightly in canola oil.

[1]: http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/06/how-to-buy-season-clean-m...


For acidic things, buy an enameled cast iron. Those things are also great. They need no seasoning, but are a bit more delicate (you don't want the enamel to chip or crack).


I grew up with traditional CI cookware. I know how to season it and how to wash it.

The roommate recently purchased an enameled cast iron skillet. The use and care guide was pretty poorly written. So, a couple of stupid questions on the topic follow:

* The coating inside the pan is enamel, and doesn't need maintenance?

* One needs to not use metal utensils (or steel wool) in order to not damage the coating?

* One can wash the damn thing with soap and water without harming the coating?

Thanks in advance. :D


As I understand it,

* no maintenance for inside

* don't use steel wool. With a stubborn stain I use a little baking soda, which some folks say is ok and others forbid. I use metal utensils despite being told not to. I use them gently and accept a few scratches; I try to avoid cutting things in the pan. I also wear contacts while swimming because I'm that kind of rebel. Meh.

* Soap + water = great :)


In addition, a lot of enamel will just stain after some time, which is normal; This is why some of the vendors are just going with black enamel these days, instead of the long-used white. I haven't tried baking soda to clear up the stains on mine, I'll have to give it a shot.

Also, if the enamel cracks inside the cooking area of the pan, you may want to throw out the pan; it may expose your food to contact with toxins used in adhering the enamel.


I'd be more worried about eating chips of (sharp, hard) enamel than any toxins - the firing process is not going to leave much other than the ceramic behind.


Once it's seasoned well, it doesn't seem to flake. I've done tomato based sauces in my cast iron a few times and the seasoning hasn't flaked.


Tomato sauces weaken the non-stick seasoning on my main cast-iron skillet, but frying bacon in it once a week repairs any damage.

My best-seasoned skillet is the one I only use for cornbread, fried eggs, and grilled cheese, since I only cook with oil there.

A good seasoning is something you build up over time: when you first season a grey skillet, it looks unusable for a time, but keep cooking oily foods in it and it will blacken up.

The nice thing is that since it's metal, you can use metal utensils. And if something is badly burned on enough that normal soaking and scouring won't remove it, you can scrape it out with metal tools.


I'd recommend the following:

1. Scrub thoroughly using only hot water and a stainless steel pot cleaner -- this should give you a clean start

2. Make fried potatoes using lots of oil, fry potatos until black (throw them away, obviously) -- this should help soak the somewhat porous surface with oil

3. Apply a thin coating of oil and bring to immense heat -- this will create a solid surface

4. After every use, clean gently using only and old towel (or hot water and pot cleaner, if needed) and always rub some oil on it when dry -- this will give you a good start for the next heat-up

Please note that 3. will result in quite a bit of smoke from the burning oil, so you may want to do this on the grill outside your house.


Yikes. What makes you think this results in fewer carcinogens on your pan's surface than teflon?


The cleaning step.

Steps one through three are what is called "seasoning" the pan. It's a process that often makes a bunch of smoke. Ideally, you only ever have to do that once. Cooking on cast iron doesn't produce a smoky mess.


If "seasoning" the pan achieves anything at all, doesn't it necessarily have to result in some sort of coating of the pan's surface?


Yes. Seasoning leaves a baked-on coating of oil/fat. That doesn't mean that the coating is carcinogenic.

IIRC (and I might not RC, I'm no food chemist) the coating is polymerized oil/fat and completely harmless.


At smoking point, carcinogens are created both in the gas and what's left behind.


How sure are you that the non-stick coating left on the pan is more carcinogenic than browned hash browns?


What makes you think the pan's surface is more carcinogenic than the steak crust?


I don't, but I'm not sure that's relevant to the hypothesis that cast iron pans are less toxic than teflon pans.


It's been a while, I'll follow up anyway...

I don't use cast iron pans because I believe they're less toxic, but because they make a damn fine crusty steak or fried potatoes.

And I use teflon pans to stir-fry or steam veggies and chicken, or to make fried eggs, just because they're more convenient.

To be honest, I don't really care all that much about potential toxiticity in cooking equipment. That wasn't really my hypothesis to begin with, I was just sharing my love for cast iron pans :-)



Yes this is a good read. After reading that last year I bought a griswold #8 from ebay for $50. Stripped it with lye oven cleaner over a few days, and then seasoned it like above. I stopped 'washing' the pan with soap as I found chiseling any stuck on stuff with a metal spatula, followed by using "The Ringer" under hot water to be quickest and easiest. After that, I dry with a paper towel and spray with Pam (read somewhere that the oil in pam (canola?) was a good 'drying' oil). It is also good to bake stuff in the pan, pizza, pies, cornbread,ect. The extra heat will also help re-season. I have been super impressed by the pan after a year.


I love my Griswold.


Indeed, I might get another one for my grandma since the ones she has are super heavy. I think the lightweight griswolds might put less strain on her wrists. (not sure why newer CI is so dang thick/heavy)


Cook with oil and real fats. Avoid soap.

If you're having issues consider getting the pre-seasoned from Lodge. It's a few buck more and they've already got a dang fine seasoning backed on.

Here's a decent article on seasoning: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/5820-the-ultimate-wa...


Buy a chainmail cleaner: http://www.amazon.com/The-Ringer-Cleaner-Stainless-Chainmail...

For $18 it will change your cast iron life.

The idea is that after you cook, you scrub all the stuff that gets stuck to the bottom with the chainmail and some water, then wipe it off with a paper towel. You'll never have to use soap again.


Is this that much different from a brillo pad (aka metal sponge)? That's what I use on my steel and iron cookware. They're like 2 EUR for a 4-pack; each sponge lasts for a very long time.


Yep! Very different. Chainmail is stainless steel, so it doesn't rust. Its also much more coarse than steel wool.

Brillo pads have soap, which you don't want because it takes the grease (read: seasoning) off the pan. They also rust quickly when you leave them out, which can discolor things.


I was (am) new to CI, I bought the ringer because it seemed like steel wool would scratch the season off (vs 'the ringer'), but then again, I never tried steel wool, so don't know.


Well, yes. It's chain mail. Really. Brillo's are just steel wool. You could wear that and safely expect it to stop a stab wound from a knife.


Just use it. I only use saturated fats in mine (mostly lard and butter) and I use metal utensiles which helps to keep it smooth. I avoid vegetable oils because I find that they go sticky (they're also not as good for you to cook with as animal fat).


Why do metal utensils not scratch it?


It's not that metal can't scratch it; it's that NON-stick surfaces are highly vulnerable to being scratched by metal, whereas cast iron is much, much less so, and scratches can heal as long as you cook with more oil.


I think what was meant (and that I can anecdotally confirm) is that metal utensils do a much better job of stopping what I will call "gunk film overgrowth" during cooking.


Iron is a harder metal than 'steel'.


Not true.

Steel is about 5.5 - 6.3 and Iron is around 4.5 on Moh's Hardness Scale. Higher numbers are harder.


They do scratch it, that's why they keep it smooth, but the iron is not a coating and is non-toxic, so it doesn't matter about wear.


We use bacon fat or avocado oil. For cleaning, we use a Lodge plastic scraper if needed. And we never use soap. We wash our cast iron with about 2TBSP of kosher salt. Just dry on the pan, maybe a few drops of water, rub with a paper towel. Removes all the food debris while protecting the seasoning. Rinse the salt out with some water then dry or deglaze immediately.


> And we never use soap.

In theory, soap shouldn't be a problem. The non-stick coating is polymerized oil bonded to the metal. It's not soluble by soap.

But there are conflicting opinions.


I went back to visit my mother once and discovered that for convenience she had started regularly running her cast iron skillets in the dishwasher.

It certainly damaged the seasoning IMO, but not as much as you might expect.

Not that I would ever do that.


The dishwasher might be more damaging because it uses detergent rather than soap and the water is typically very hot.


I doubt that. I do more or less as you do but, after that process, if I take a clean towel and rub it against the "clean" surface, it invariably comes back with a distinct brown color. That brown color doesn't look like "clean" to me, it's more like burnt oil... I'd expect my towel to be 100% clean if that "seasoning" was working as advertised...


You can think of the brown color as a feature, not a bug.

Yes, it is effectively burnt oil and you probably shouldn't eat too much of it, but it will give steaks for instance a great crust and I think it adds a bit of flavor as well.


When you want something even more practical and nicer, step up to a Matfer or De Buyer carbon steel pan.


America's Test Kitchen had a nice roundup review of these the other day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-suTmUX4Vbk They also have some tips for seasoning them.


Cast Iron + Lots of Butter = Teflon


I have a 7 year old Tefal pan, I mostly used it in a dorm. I often lent it to my dormmates and even they couldn't destroy the coating.


Don't let soap and teflon touch. That's one of my rules. Wash with hot water and not too hard scrubbing. This and the heat from cooking take care of hygiene. My cheap ass Ikea teflon pan has lasted years in good condition.

Also no metal utensils and don't heat it up like crazy especially without anything on it. Easy rules.


They can't ... I have managed to burn off the seasoning on regular infrared electric stovetop.


Horrible. This is what's so scary about the free market and our current chemical regulations of innocent until proved guilty.

People cover up, even the biggest most "professional" here (DuPont), and the public gets decades of abuse.

Why is it that medication requires FDA approval with lots of animal/human tests before you can sell it, but chemicals do not? Here the tests internally done showed prove of issue year after year, and would have been a big red flag.


Free markets when supported by strong property rights can have strong protections to prevent harm or pollution.

Non free markets, although regulated, don't necessarily perform better and can even perform worse in this regard. The FDA is a great example of an agency which often can be seen to work harder to protect the industry than the individual. For example, look up the story of Vioxx. A drug which killed 50k people, passed all FDA processes and when the manufacturer was caught hiding data showing this would happen the product was not even removed from the market as that would have opened the door for lawsuits against the manufacturer.


I think this article demonstrates why that doesn't actually work in practice. DuPont contaminated several counties with a toxic chemical over the course of a decade, affecting many people's property, yet because the owners didn't even know to test for it and weren't in a position to prove that it was dangerous, let alone prove that it had harmed them specifically, DuPont got away with this.


Possibly, but it would seem to nonetheless also demonstrate why regulation also doesn't work in practice.

From the article. "...THE FEDERAL TOXIC SUBSTANCES Control Act requires companies that work with chemicals to report to the Environmental Protection Agency any evidence they find that shows or even suggests that they are harmful..."

What many people don't realize, is that EPA and FDA rely on the trust of the private industry to submit accurate test data. This was the same issue with Vioxx.

People don't know to test also because they assume these agencies are protecting them. If property rights had more of a role, then there would be a greater call for testing and likely there would be more testing services available due to demand.

From article. "... If these polluters were ever forced to clean up the chemical, which has been detected by the EPA 716 times across water systems in 29 states, and in some areas may be present at dangerous levels, the costs could be astronomical..."

I doubt this will happen, since the regulatory agencies attempt to prevent harm to the industry. A proponent of property rights would have no issue with the companies paying for every bit of damages and cleanup no matter how much damage is done to the business even if it must be shutdown.

Another example of EPA being aware of a problem and siding with industry against the individual http://www.ewg.org/research/free-pass-oil-and-gas/oil-and-ga...

An example case in Canada where property rights did work http://environment.probeinternational.org/1993/07/17/how-the...

This is a good reference on the history of environmental policy. In an interesting section here, the book states how property rights in the US were purposely weakened to allow for pollution. https://books.google.com/books?id=ZqRjI6JcgrMC&lpg=PA127&pg=...

What I would like to see is a return to stronger enforcement of property rights by default and supplemented as necessary by agency regulation.


So the fix for regulatory capture is to abolish regulations?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture


Proving causation in toxic torts make it pretty much impossible to hold companies accountable. Moreover, both judges and juries strongly side with companies, who create jobs. At best these cases settle for 5-10% of the damage caused, which make them a small tax on this destructive conduct.


> Free markets when supported by strong property rights can have strong protections to prevent harm or pollution.

Can someone explain how this is supposed to work? I don't mean to sound rude/biased but this sounds like one of those cases where the theory is sound but when it meets with reality we get unpredictable(and sometimes disastrous) results.


People who have no money are supposed to sue DuPont and pony up the money to pay lawyers and experts to prove that DuPont's emissions were harmful and caused their injuries. Then if they lose, because that's hard to prove, they're supposed to pay DuPont's legal fees and costs.


And if you do win, all the Court can do is make DuPont write you a check.

That check will almost always be for far less than the answer you would have given before the injury to the question: "How much money would I have to give you to allow me to cause this specific injury to you?".


Lawyers put the money up for a cut of profits. If legal claims could be sold then someone else could buy the claim itself and class action wouldn't be the only recourse for the poor.


Lawyers who work on pure contingency settle cases for pennies on the dollar because they can't afford the risk of going to trial. Especially in toxic tort cases, where the experts are expensive and the burden of proof is much higher than what science can easily satisfy (more likely than not, the injury would not have happened but for the defendant's conduct).

Legal claims can be and are sold to entities that aggregate them and bring the lawsuits themselves. That's probably better than the class action system but still leaves victims getting a fraction of their damages and perpetrators paying for only a fraction of the costs.

Another libertarian-ish solution to toxic torts, which I've never seen espoused, is to simply recognize that pollution is a form of violence and make it illegal. Then, people who want to pollute could transact with the potentially affected parties to pay them to shift onto them to bear the risk of harm from pollution.


In Economics, the Coase Theorem[1] predicts close to this outcome, although it speaks to efficient outcomes and not necessarily harm reducing outcomes. When strong property rights exist (and it is feasible for all parties to negotiate), then parties may reach an efficient allocation of resources regardless of how the resources were initially allocated.

To use a typical example, imagine a train track runs through a farmer's land and sparks from the train sets the farmer's wheat on fire, causing monetary harm. If the train company owns the tracks, then the farmer should be willing to pay to put spark guards along the tracks to protect his crop. Alternatively, if the farmer owns the tracks, the train company should be willing to pay for the damage to the crop to ensure that it can continue to operate.

In practice, there may be costs associated with negotiations (e.g. lawyers), it may be infeasible to negotiate between all parties (e.g. if there are many farmers affected), or property rights are not sufficiently strong for one party to bar another from producing negative externalities, all of which can lead to failures of the theorem.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coase_theorem


The sparking train analogy fails because it supposes a single obvious entity causing a large amount of damage to a single person.

To modify the analogy to fit the real-world situation, it would be more like if there were a million train tracks going all over the place, and the sparks from each train falls on millions of wheat fields, such that everyone lives in a diffuse cloud of sparks, and no single fire can be blamed on any individual train, and the harm from any single train is relatively small, even though the collective effect is extremely damaging.

The Coase Theorem assumes that transaction costs are negligible. In a many-to-many situation like real-world pollution, transaction costs necessarily become prohibitively large, because you basically have a quadratic explosion of connections between polluters and victims (many of whom are also polluters!).


Just wanted to point out that you restated what was said in the parent.

>In practice, there may be costs associated with negotiations (e.g. lawyers), it may be infeasible to negotiate between all parties (e.g. if there are many farmers affected), or property rights are not sufficiently strong for one party to bar another from producing negative externalities, all of which can lead to failures of the theorem.


Yes, I was just trying to reinforce and generalize that, not try to argue anything.


Gotcha


And, sorry, I probably could have made that a little more clear! Like it or not, the default on the internet is often to assume argument.


So is your example meant to illustrate the need for us to filter our drinking water and air if we live on the same planet as a DuPont plant?


>>Free markets when supported by strong property rights can have strong protections to prevent harm or pollution.

>Can someone explain how this is supposed to work? I don't mean to sound rude/biased but this sounds like one of those cases where the theory is sound but when it meets with reality we get unpredictable(and sometimes disastrous) results.

The example is meant to illustrate the mechanism being asked about by the parent (quoted). Nothing was said about filtering air and water in the example.


But it's implicit that if the train throws sparks(DuPont plant pollutes the air and water on the entire planet) that the most equitable thing for me to do as the farmer would be to build spark guards(filter my air and water no matter where I live). That way I can prevent my fields from catching fire(increased risk factors from Teflon surfactants).


so... the farmer gets screwed?


The farmer may achieve a more favorable outcome if assigned the property rights, but the Coase Theorem aims to address the notion of efficiency. In an efficient market, no party can be made better off without another being made worse off.


A couple of reference for further reading on the subject.

"...if a product polluted the air, victims could sue the product maker, who in turn would pass the costs of restitution onto the consumer. Higher prices would discourage use and decrease pollution..." http://www.ruwart.com/environ2.lpn.wpd.html

The only reference I know of in modern time where property rights were actually used was in Canada. Look up Terence Corcoran and clean water. He produced a documentary how Canada's waters have become polluted after property rights were abolished in 1955.

This is a good reference on the history of environmental policy. In an interesting section here, the book states how property rights in the US were purposely weakened to allow for pollution. https://books.google.com/books?id=ZqRjI6JcgrMC&lpg=PA127&pg=...


> Free markets when supported by strong property rights can have strong protections to prevent harm or pollution

Only in limited circumstances. The problem with the property rights approach is that for much pollution there is no way to figure out who was responsible for releasing it.


I think some of this is related to a certain FDA schizophrenia. My take it that at some point it was decided that it was more efficient / cheaper / better for the FDA to act as a gatekeeper for the public.

I.e A very effectiveness initial scrutiny process for the FDA to say "This is safe, you can sell it to the public" (for drugs at least, and food-related chemicals; I'm admittedly unfamiliar with the tox standards applied to commercial or industrial chemicals) but little done for subsequent discoveries.

Maybe part of that is confirmation bias. "But we ran this chemical through our initial process and it tested as safe. How could it not be safe?"


>> A drug which killed 50k people

The one I saw said it raised the death rate in the US by 100k per year for 5 years, after which there was an equal drop in the death rate. The rise was also in the age range of people most likely to take it.


The problem with pollution is that both emissions and harm can be extremely diffuse. If ten million vehicles are polluting the air breathed by twenty million peoples, who is supposed to sue whom? I can't very well sue every car driver in my area for one penny each.


> Free markets when supported by strong property rights can have strong protections to prevent harm or pollution.

This seems to imply that such markets aren't actually "free" since they're regulated via the enforcement of property rights.


I'm fascinated by this idea of "free markets". Please, can you provide a real world example?


Chemistry is far from being a free market. There are tons of regulations before you can produce anything in developed countries. The issue is rather that fines are too small and regulators can be easily bribed. You need an independent justice system more than anything else.


> This is what's so scary about the free market and our current chemical regulations of innocent until proved guilty.

I get your point, but the situation is not much better in non-free markets as well. Regulators have a price for which they can be captured.


The solution IMHO to have a climate of non-corruption (US) generally combined with enough pay already for regulators to not be easily swayed, and hopefully hire people who have different motivators than money in life, and actually jail for real people who violate this (too many abuses, particularly on Wall Street, go by without the true punishment it deserves).

Despite existing corruption, I do believe the FDA is less corrupt than it is corrupt, and for the most part they do have the public good as their primary interest.

My free market comment was more about this theory of self-regulation and trust. Clearly that gets violated time and time again, and here is yet another case to the point of knowingly harming their own employees for decades!

The bigger issue is this non-regulatory environment for so many chemicals. Innocent until proven guilty, especially for thousands of drugs already popular when regulations were enacted (in the 60s?), is just irresponsible. The list of drugs in the blood of the entire pollution just keeps growing... How long before we realize the permanent harm potential?


It is worse. Look at the Soviet Union or China.


You are correct, but "regulatory capture" refers to a different form of corruption than what you are talking about.


[deleted]



Sorry, I deleted my post when I re-read the story. Still, it's not clear that the levels in the products were enough to have harmful effects, the problem was really the lack of care handling it in the plant, and the unsafe disposal.


On the topic of chemical, how do you know if something is dangerous -- in the context of household item? Even with the MSDS and/or knowledge of the compositions, layman doesn't really have any sense on how dangerous something is (as it's all missing dosage). I'm a bit on the paranoid side (mostly because I think my roommate/ housemate has always been too liberal with spraying chemicals crap everywhere), and most of the time, even if I wanted to I have no idea if I want to use something in my house.


>even if I wanted to I have no idea if I want to use something in my house.

Everything in your house is toxic. Pick up anything with the ingredients on the label and google a random one that has a funny name. Then read about it on wikipedia and you can go further from there if you want and see the studies. Chances are it is very toxic but it's used in small ammounts so you shouldn't worry about it because the effects only show up after years and years of use.

Then look at the unlabeled stuff and food packaging. What's it made of? What is it coloured with? What's in the glue that holds it together? What does the paper have in it?

Checkout the uses for isothiazolinone and related compounds like methylchloroisothiazolinone if you are curious about something that's in practically everything.


I think that's exactly the point I was trying to make. I know that whether something is dangerous or not depends entirely on the concentration, and/or the form of it (ie solid metal lead isn't too scary, any type of its compound is). Unfortunately, I can't know the concentration(since packaging obviously doesn't mention it), and I don't know what's the threshold I should be careful about either.


The Environmental Working Group has great resources. They are a non-profit that has databases of household cleaning products, body care, baby care, and cosmetics reviewed and rated according to risk. You can find many brand name products, learn about common ingredients, and find new recommendations with little risk by searching a generic catagory. You can check out the individual ingredients in the database with what research supports the specific risks associated with it. They also publish excellent consumer guides for produce, cleaning, and sunscreen.



Some knowledge of organic chemistry helps a lot. Organometalic compounds, Organic compounds with fluorine, and heavy metals are all scary.


More on C8, the chemical discussed in this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfluorooctanoic_acid


As the article says: this is another tobacco case, so they'll deny everything even with fake/bought peer-reviewed studies. Just look how they treat their own workers... My family already moved from non-stick cookware to stainless steel. Consider doing the same in the mean time. As with the tobacco this will be a marathon, and hopefully common sense will win.


Stick with cast iron ( or even aluminium ) chef's skillets. Season them with oil or lard and build up that patina. No need for any teflon or manufacturing. Plus the heft and look is way cooler. If you want to cook on plastic, do it in a microwave. :)


Question - I use these pans: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Circulon-Infinite-Hard-Anodised-Skil...

They are non-stick. But are they covered with Teflon? I honestly don't know. They are oven safe up to 240C, I can put them in the dishwasher...they are seriously the most durable pans I've ever used, unlike normal Tefal Teflon covered pans which scratch easily. Does anyone know?


These are Hard Anodized pans, and they don't use Teflon. I've got this set of Circulon pans from Costco [1]; absolutely no problems and my friends have been equally impressed with the non-stick properties. You can especially see it when making something like scrambled eggs where the egg just doesn't stick.

[1]: http://www.costco.com/Circulon%C2%AE-Premier-Professional-Ha...


The pans you linked to do have a Teflon coating. Look at the fourth bullet point under "Features," where it says it uses DuPont Autograph. Autograph is a product within the Teflon line.


You can make superhydrophobic surfaces with laser etching that affects the nano structure of the metal. Thus if you take a strong metal and laser etch it there is no need for potentially dangerous Teflon coating.

https://www.rochester.edu/newscenter/superhydrophobic-metals...


Except doing that on a large scale would be super expensive.


Why? Typically, whenever you do something in the large scale, you can amortize the capital cost of the equipment to zero (economy of scale) and if the product is popular, inventors will come up with cheaper ways to run the manufacturing facility.

That said, lasers do use lots of power so it will probably be marginally more expensive.


It's not just capital cost for equipment that needs to be considered at this stage, but also the research needed to make suitable equipment for large scale production. Per the article, a 1"x1" section of metal takes an hour.

Maybe some day, but then "there is no need for potentially dangerous Teflon coating in 10-15 years" would be more appropriate.


How well does that surface withstand wear? If the property is dependent on "micro- and nanoscale structures" as claimed in the article, then surely a few months of use will destroy those structures.


I guessed this might be about PFOA when I saw the headline! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfluorooctanoic_acid has the whole story, minus the anecdotes. Apparently a few parts per billion of PFOA in your drinking water is enough to detectably raise your risk of some cancers. Most environmental regulatory agencies propose 0.5 to 1 ppb as a safe limit for drinking water, while 4–5 ppb blood serum levels of PFOA are currently common among "unexposed Germans".

I was pleased to see that they aren't hyping the risk of cooking on Teflon.


Teflon has been known to be toxic for years. I'm not sure why "default trust" is a good position when dealing with companies like DuPont and Monsanto that have been caught lying to the public before. "Default suspicion" seems like the more cautious and logical approach here.

It's been more than a decade since I cooked with Teflon. I use glass, stainless steel, cast iron, or ceramic/enamel (love that old original Corningware from eBay!).

Much like eating real food, it's not hard to switch and the result tastes better.


I get irritated at the "but science!" crowd on these issues... Not because they are always wrong but because they don't get the social undercurrents at work here.

People preemptively reject GMOs for a fairly rational reason: they come from industries and an establishment with a hard documented history of lying and covering up problems. If a confirmed pathological liar comes to you with a new product and tells you it's safe...

I asked someone I knew who was very anti-GMO once if shs would consider them if they were being designed and tested by open non-profit agencies with a dedication to the public interest. She said yes.

For quite a few people, perhaps most, it's not some superstitious fear of the technology per se but a very rational distrust of the people who are wielding it.


> and the result tastes better

I don't doubt all your other points, but why did you include this one?

Are you claiming that teflon-coated surfaces somehow add a taste, or demonstrably change the texture of the food cooked on it?


I've tried both and like the result from stainless steel and Corningware better. Granted, I was using older-style pans made a decade or so ago. YMMV, though the Teflon is not healthy for high-heat cooking. I avoid it, why bother?


> Teflon has been known to be toxic for years.

No it hasn't.

Teflon is not toxic at all.

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt as assume you are just confusing it with precursors to teflon instead of teflon itself.


Yes, precursors are toxic. But it's also easy to overheat a Teflon pan when preparing to fry something up, and it's not healthy:

"Use low or medium heat with Teflon skillets and pans. When Teflon-coated cookware is overheated, the cookware releases fumes that may cause flu-like symptoms in humans." http://homeguides.sfgate.com/dangers-scratched-teflon-cookwa...

I prefer other types of cookware, for myself.


The problem with that advise is that oil releases MORE toxic fumes at a lower temperature than teflon.

Teflon is safer than the oil you are cooking with. If you heated it hot enough to make fumes from the teflon you would have a cloud of smoke from the oil.

They know this because did a test and found that oil is more toxic to birds than teflon.

So go ahead and cook with teflon on high, it's safer than using a lot of burning oil.


You keep claiming that heated oil is a greater killer than heated Teflon. Do you have any sources where people can examine the evidence, or any evidence that you can present directly? I just can't find any evidence at all for your claims, even though you've posted the same thing about 12 times.


You didn't look very hard.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0002889738506828

Exposure of Japanese Quail and Parakeets to the Pyrolysis Products of Fry Pans Coated with Teflon® and Common Cooking Oils

Lethal temperature:

butter: 260°C/500°F

Teflon: 330°C/626°F

plastic handle: 370°C/698°F


All three authors work for DuPont. What do you expect they will find?

"FRANKLIN D. GRIFFITHa, SUSAN S. STEPHENSa & FIGEN O. TAYFUNa"

"Author affiliations" Footnote a: "a Haskell Laboratory for Toxicology and Industrial Medicine, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Wilmington, Delaware 19898"


> What do you expect they will find?

I expect them to tell the truth. Do you accuse them of lying?

Because this is a very straightforward piece of research, it's not one of those cases where you can fudge the numbers with statistics, to cherry pick results out of nothing.

I'm willing to believe that if this study had bad results they might not have published it (which is why affiliated-type studies usually have "good" results). But since they did publish it, I am not willing to believe they lied.

Plus it's well known birds will die from smoke, it's also quite well known at what point butter or oil will smoke. This isn't very complicated research, and it fits perfectly with other known information.

If you still have doubts after this then that is simply your bias, not logic.


Let’s be clear: You’re telling me that because I don’t simply accept the results of a clearly biased study at face value, I am biased.

You’re right: I already said my default position is suspicion when dealing with companies that have lied profusely in the past.

I’m going to sign off and stop thinking about why you are pushing your point in multiple places in this thread. Maybe I’ll cook some steak in a stainless steel pan. Subversive, I know :-)


> You’re telling me that because I don’t simply accept the results of a clearly biased study at face value, I am biased.

No. I am telling you your reasons are illogical.

> and stop thinking about why you are pushing your point in multiple places in this thread

It's not complicated. I happen to know something, so I am telling people.

If you are starting to think I have other motives then that's clearly a pattern in your mind and you will have to decide for yourself why you do that.


There are ways of being dishonest other than lying. For example, the smoke point of butter is 150°C, well below the 260°C lethal temperature the DuPont scientists found, so it'd be extremely difficult to reach that temperature by accident. On the other hand, Teflon fumes can (and fairly often do) kill birds at levels that aren't noticeable to human cooks at all.


Feel free to use Teflon if you like it. I don't like it and don't trust DuPont in general. I'll cook with high-smoke-point oils using cookware I prefer, and take my chances.


Another good alternative cookware is Le Creuset. They make nice enameled cast-iron products, and they work well. I think Costco carries them as a white-label now and then.


I highly recommend watching The Human Experiment documentary about chemicals, toxins and the chemical industry strong lobby. It's available on Netflix.


> A DuPont lawyer referred to C8 as “the material 3M sells us that we poop to the river and into drinking water along the Ohio River.”

Yet another lovely thing I'm sure I ingested when I grew up drinking tap water in New Orleans what with the Ohio being the biggest tributary to the Mississippi.


It may seem nit-picky, but the word "toxin" refers to a harmful substance produced by a living organism (e.g. snake venom). For a synthesized or manufactured chemical that is harmful, "toxicant" or simply toxic chemical is the correct term.


All that teflon is going somewhere when it falls off the pan. Its going in the food and into your body. I'd rather not run that experiment.

So many years ago I started using a glass frying pan.


Teflon itself is pretty much inert. That's the whole point - nothing reacts with it, nothing sticks to it. The worry is about the chemicals used to manufacture it.


Heat your Teflon pans with nothing in it and it'll kill a canary. Hardly inert.


Heat it with oil and it will kill the canary at a lower temperature than teflon.

Ergo oil is toxic.

You are using bad logic and bad science.


Where are you getting that info?


From the FDA. Before they approved teflon for use in cookware they tested it vs oil.

Oil was found to be toxic at a lower temperature than teflon, making teflon safer than oil for high heat cooking.

Obviously when I say "oil is toxic" I'm being sarcastic.


Not that I'm doubting you, but can I have the source for your claim? I want to present it to my chemophobic friends.


http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0002889738506828

Exposure of Japanese Quail and Parakeets to the Pyrolysis Products of Fry Pans Coated with Teflon® and Common Cooking Oils

Lethal temperature:

butter: 260°C/500°F

Teflon: 330°C/626°F

plastic handle: 370°C/698°F


Fascinating. Luckily butter almost never gets to those temperatures. We're obviously different animals, and it seems that birds can eat butter, so I wonder what it is about oils specifically that kills them. Likely the mechanism will be different from PTFE and PFOA and maybe incompatible with humans who also suffer from large-scale inhalation (see article). We don't know much about long term PTFE/PFOA inhalation in small quantities.

So it seems to be that cast iron itself, heated, doesn't cause the bird to die. Cast iron + butter kills the bird, but so does teflon + butter. So in butter-less dry pan to dry pan scenarios, cast iron is non-toxic yet teflon is toxic.

As you can see here [1] if you leave your pan on the stove heated it can hit these toxic temperatures within minutes. So the exposure to the gas isn't hypothetical. Dry pan toxicity is a real concern which is unique to Teflon.

Then there's digesting it since it will slowly wear off into your food. We don't have science specifically looking at long-term slow exposure to PTFE/PFOA. So you're taking your chances... but we do know that PFOA is much less inert than PFTE when digested.

Non-stick pans won't last as long as cast iron or stainless steel, and cast iron can perform like non-stick while also adding flavor and necessary iron. Oh and cast iron can be often as cheap or cheaper than non-stick (except for the super crazy low end, but talk about most likely to be toxic...), and most certainly is cheaper in the long run (I'll have my great-grandmother's pan for the rest of my life which I do 90% of my cooking in... try that with your teflon).

So if you don't need non-stick pans, so why voluntarily expose yourself to the risk?

[1] http://buffalobirdnerd.com/clients/8963/documents/Teflon.pdf


> so I wonder what it is about oils specifically that kills them

I think it's just the smoke, nothing special about oil or teflon. I wonder if smokers have a problem with bird health?

Cast iron has oil on it when seasoned. I suspect the study used "clean" cast iron.


Teflon is inert as far as we know, but I wouldn't be surprised if DuPont knew of some subtle problems caused by Teflon in human bodies.

And even if Teflon was totally safe, it's well-known to release toxic gases when overheated, which is an easy mistake to make in kitchens.


> Teflon is inert as far as we know

And we know quite far. It's pretty easy to tell from the molecular structure.

> it's well-known to release toxic gases when overheated, which is an easy mistake to make in kitchens.

So does oil. And oil does it at a lower temperature than teflon, which makes teflon safer. Or are you planning on banning oil in kitchens?


Can you elaborate on this for me, I found the article confusing in its usage of C8 and Teflon (which seemed interchangeable as written?). What chemicals are used to produce Teflon which are harmful?


Teflon is the trade name for PTFE, a polymer (long skinny molecule made of a chain of identical parts) with extremely low friction which is strong, has a high melting point compared to other polymers, and doesn’t react with most chemicals, making it useful as a lubricant, non-stick coating, and electrical insulator for aerospace circuitry, with a long list of other niche uses.

PTFE is stable and nontoxic at temperatures below about 250° celsius.

PFOA, a.k.a. C8, is a surfactant (“soap”) which was used in the polymerization of PTFE. (But also used for many other purposes, e.g. as an ingredient in carpet cleaners and fire-fighting foam.)

PFOA is a toxin and carcinogen which bioaccumulates and causes nasty problems for people exposed to large amounts of it.


The alternate answer is that it goes out in the usual fashion with little no digestion at all. Or put more bluntly, if you eat a brick of Teflon, then you shit a block of Teflon.


You're not going to get sick from the tiny amount of Teflon that might fall off during repeated cooking. This article is about workers exposed to large amounts over years.


You wouldn't get sick if you ate lots of it all the time.

The article is about PFOA which is not the same thing as teflon.


Wait... so nobody even got life-in-prison for this shit??!!

My gut reaction is the we should seriously consider resurrecting worse-than-death-penalty sanctions for the executives and scientists involved. I'd propose something like this for the fully-informed company executives and free acting scientists: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nine_familial_exterminations


Teflon is an insulator compare to iron. Thermal conductivity W/(m K) Teflon 0.25, Iron 80[1]. So Teflon coating reduces cooking, heating efficiency. [1]engineeringtoolbox.com


Tl;dr? How badly am I destroying my health by using a Teflon pan?


Teflon pans are not a significant source of the perfluorooctanoic acid mentioned in the article.

See https://dx.doi.org/10.1111%2Fj.1539-6924.2008.01017.x for a bit more information, I quoted the relevant part here:

Besides the pathways presented above, the following pathways have also been modeled: oral exposure from hand-to-mouth contact with clothes and upholstery, from mouthing of clothes, carpet, and upholstery (only infants and toddlers), from migration into food prepared with PTFE-coated cookware, dermal exposure from wearing of treated clothes, from deposition of spray droplets on skin while impregnating, from skin contact with treated carpet and with upholstery, and from deposition of dust on skin.

Detailed analysis of these pathways showed that none of them causes significant exposure to PFOS or PFOA under the assumption of reasonable conditions during exposure, that is, the contribution of each pathway to the total uptake dose is less than 1% in any of the scenarios.


They did cover ingestion, but what about the fumes released while cooking that are apparently capable of killing birds?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10050903

Also: Is there any way to identify where the funding came for this study - or studies in general?


Now Teflon has not C8 on it as it is manufactured.

You will create dangerous compounds though if your pan goes over high temperature. This could happen if for example there is no oil in the pan. I have seen housewives and cookers heat the Teflon pan without oil for evaporating the water. Big no no with Teflon.

I have seen metal scrappers burning teflon pans to use the pan for something else and painting it!(with teflon you can't paint it)

The big problems with exotic chemicals is that people could do extremely stupid stuff without them realizing they had done anything wrong.

It is not like red alarms will start ringing or something. It is just silent, and two years later you will have cancer.


>I have seen housewives and cookers heat the Teflon pan without oil for evaporating the water. Big no no with Teflon.

Oops... I regularly do this. Same question as previously.


You are fine. He is overreacting. Teflon itself is completely non-toxic.

Heating teflon to extreme temperatures will make it smoke, but it's way hotter than the smoke point of oil.

i.e. it's a far far higher temperature than anyone cooks at. (Maybe some specialized cooking methods, but they'd have to be without oil.)

If you did the same thing with oil, the oil would smoke and be far more toxic than the teflon.

i.e. teflon is safer than oil.

If you are not heating the pan beyond the smoke point of the oil you have nothing to worry about.


I do this on cast iron. Never on Teflon.

You can use an oven thermocouple to measure the temp of your pan as you heat it without oil. If you do it once,and compare with the temps that are dangerous(you could see it on Internet) you will never do it again, as you will realize how fast temp goes up and how easy is to manufacture C8 with your pan.

Water acts as a limit of temperature, when it is wet it can't go higher than 100 Celsius(locally, it can in the parts of the pan that are dry). But once all water is gone, it goes hot incredibly fast. Oil does the same but with higher temperature than water, with way higher boiling pressure.

If someone does this mistake in one of my Teflon pans, I just throw it away. I never trust pans that are not mine.

Obviously, when you see smoke in the oil it is not good either.

By the way most of my pans are ceramic or cast iron.


> Obviously, when you see smoke in the oil it is not good either.

Exactly. The important takeaway here is that teflon becomes toxic only after the smoke point of the oil. i.e. oil is more toxic at high temperature.

So putting in the oil doesn't protect you from toxic fumes since you get those from the oil, but rather it gives a visible signal (smoke), that you could quickly turn off the heat because you are about to damage your pan. But as far as toxic fumes go it's too late - you already had those from the oil.


As far as I can tell Teflon fumes themselves are only confirmed to be acutely toxic; in humans they cause flu-like symptoms and damage the lungs. The articles I have found do not say anything about there being long-term consequences for those who didn't get the acute symptoms.


[flagged]


Like the government has the power or time to regulate the huge amounts of "chemicals"

How about instead of having "government" do the testing, we instead require that anyone creating a new chemical needs to test it for safety and publish the results (and raw data) before allowing it to be sold? Seems reasonable to me that you verify that whatever you're selling isn't dangerous (or if it turns out to be dangerous, inform the buyers so that they can act accordingly). Should be the same with any product too, not just chemicals.


This is the EU approach (REACH: http://echa.europa.eu/regulations/reach ). It's pretty burdensome, and somewhat unevenly applied (lead has been phased out of solder, but not of batteries).

The "verify your product is not dangerous" has had strange effects, as people selling hand-knitted stuffed toys in tiny quantities have to work out how to handle CE marking requirements. This kind of regulation sets an effective minimum size on businesses.


Some of the unevenness is for occasionally non-obvious, but valid reasons. It's done in RoHS, too, for instance: lead is banned out of solder, but still allowed for some equipment, such as radiation shields for imaging machines.

The reason being that lead-free solder can still be used effectively. Lead-free radiation shields -- not so much.

The aim is to reduce the usage of hazardous substances to those cases where there's just no way around them, in the hope that it will make things like waste management easier.

Edit: CE marking requirements are also reasonably easy to work out. I know several one-man businesses that solved that problem without that much hassle, so -- anecdotally -- the minimum size imposed on a business is one :).


CE marking requirements are also reasonably easy to work out.

This depends very much on the product (first challenge: identify your product category in the regulations!). Electronics and especially radio transmitters have more confusing requirements. It helps that there isn't really any spot-checking: if you just write "CE" on the product and sell a few hundred units, and it doesn't actually kill anyone, you'll probably be fine.


> This kind of regulation sets an effective minimum size on businesses.

Exactly.

I find it funny how the biggest proponents of regulation are also those who oppose big companies as well

Because regulations are a very nice way of eliminating the (smaller) competition


There's no reason the government can't level the playing field by subsidizing the fixed overhead portion of meeting the regulations. They don't, and it's stupid - ever tried to buy or sell farm fresh eggs? - but there's no reason they can't.


Funny enough, eggs are the example used to discuss the impact of TTIP. In the US eggs at the supermarket are very clean. In Europe, it's forbidden to clean the eggs in any way. Often enough, you will have feathers and feces on eggs bought in the supermarket.


> In the US eggs at the supermarket are very clean. In Europe, it's forbidden to clean the eggs in any way. Often enough, you will have feathers and feces on eggs bought in the supermarket.

Cleaning them removes a natural antibacterial layer that protects the eggs, which is why the US has to refridgerate theirs and Europe leaves them out at room temp. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/09/11/336330502/why...


The lead in batteries is generally recycled, lead in solder isn't.


Solder in electronic devices is also "supposed" to be recycled under WEEE. I'm not sure how well this works in practice.


That's a much fairer requirement (and it exists in some forms), but it has some issues

Some substances are not meant to be in contact with people. It would be even unethical/illegal to study the contact of certain substances with people. Short studies usually can't tell the long effects of substances.

Testing in animals also has some problems (cigarettes are safe for mice)

Longer exposures (in a factory environment) also cause more problems, and in the case of duPont they're not the first not the last to be involved in similar issues (of employee contamination)

Just to be clear, I'm not defending the company, but to think government can regulate all kind of new substances that appear everyday is just silly.

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