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Is Teflon Toxic?

Last Updated on October 29, 2022 by Chris Weatherall

Is Teflon Toxic

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Many people use nonstick pans for cooking on a daily basis. Nonstick pans have become popular because they can make both cooking and cleaning much easier. For example, it’s easier to scramble eggs, flip pancakes, toast grilled cheese, and make plenty of other foods without risk of tearing when stuck to a pan.

Unfortunately, while Teflon non-stick pan coatings are common, they are not without issue. Teflon is a versatile coating agent used for a variety of products beyond cookware, but the emergence of dangerous health effects associated with the coating may indicate that the ease of cooking with Teflon is not worth the risks involved. In fact, Teflon may be linked to hazardous health conditions like cancer.

What Is Teflon?

Teflon is a coating first manufactured in the 1930s that makes nonstick cookware truly nonstick. Nonstick pots, frying pans, saucepans, and other cookware are coated in polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a plastic synthetic chemical that has been given the brand name Teflon. This chemical is made of carbon and fluorine atoms that can easily coat the desired surface. Then, it is baked in place to create a nonreactive, nonstick, waterproof, and noncorrosive surface.

What Is Teflon

The almost frictionless surface that is created as a result of this coating is meant to provide a barrier between external elements and the product itself. Teflon has been used to create nonstick surfaces for the NASA space program, in craft supplies, and is also used more generally in the world of industrial and automotive materials and products, such as wire and cable coatings, fabric protectors, and waterproof clothing. As it applies to household products, Teflon gives products like irons, pots, and pans a coating that makes them easy to use and easy to clean. The coating has been marketed as a way to use less butter or oil during cooking, resulting in lower fat food.

Is Teflon Harmful to Humans?

The use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), or C8 colloquially, in Teflon drew scrutiny to Teflon-coated products. PFOA came with numerous health concerns, but was eventually removed from the product. Unfortunately, PFOA was replaced with chemicals that harbor their own health risks.

Now, there are risks associated with overheating Teflon, which is certainly not a desirable aspect of cookware. Worse, normal cooking temperatures release various chemicals and gasses from Teflon coated products, with varying levels of toxicity. For that reason, research is ongoing regarding the chemicals associated with Teflon.

Harmful Effects of Teflon

Harmful Effects of Teflon

So, why is Teflon so toxic? There are several ways Teflon cookware can cause harm, and it’s important to understand the impact this cookware can have on you and your loved ones. It’s also necessary to realize that since research is ongoing, the full impact of Teflon exposure is still unknown.

PFOA Exposure

Until 2013, Teflon coating contained perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which was claimed to burn off during manufacturing. However, trace amounts were still found on cookware long after it was meant to burn off, and could cause egregious health effects on consumers. Now, newly manufactured Teflon products may no longer contain PFOA, but products from 2013 or earlier likely still contain the chemical.

PFOA, or C8, has been linked to a variety of negative health conditions. Exposure to high levels of PFOA increased risks of cancers, such as:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Prostate cancer
Although Teflon manufacturers claim levels of PFOA in Teflon cookware were not high enough to cause cancer, both PFOA and Teflon are linked to other negative health conditions. These conditions include:
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Infertility
  • Low birth weight
Another concern surrounding PFOA is how long it remains in the environment and the human body. The chemical was found in the blood of 98% of people who participated in a 1999-2000 NHANES study. This eventually led to a movement to eliminate PFOA from Teflon products, which was completed in 2015. However, replacement chemicals have similar uncertainties regarding their toxicity.

PFA Exposure

Though PFOA has been eliminated from Teflon, there are other dangerous or little-known chemicals associated with the coating. PFAs, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are one such unknown chemical. PFAs are considered a potential risk in food-contact products according to the U.S. SPSC, and much about how they impact the human body is unknown. Exposure to these substances can cause:

  • Increased blood cholesterol
  • Lessened vaccine responses in children
  • Decreased infant weight
  • Differences in liver enzymes
  • Increased possibility of high blood pressure during pregnancies

Is Scratched Teflon Toxic?

Teflon manufacturers claim that flakes of Teflon are not toxic enough to pose a risk, even when PFOA is used. However, high levels are still considered a risk and you should throw out any Teflon cookware that is peeling or flaking. Further, there is a risk that the chemicals associated with Teflon flakes can artificially make people feel more full than they are, leading them to consume fewer calories. The results of continuous Teflon flake consumption are unknown.

Is Scratched Teflon Toxic

Even without PFOA, Teflon still has the potential to negatively affect the environment. One of the replacement chemicals for PFOA was discovered in residential water. The substances have also been found in animals in areas. The chemical’s environmental presence could be exposing many people to damaging effects.

Teflon and High Temperature

The final, and most recently recognized, way that Teflon can impact your health is by breaking down under high heat. While Teflon is marketed as an incredibly stable compound, once heated to temperatures around 570°F, or 300°C, Teflon coatings can break down. This can cause toxins to off-gas into your food and into the environment.

The more exposure to Teflon fumes you experience, the more health problems could occur. Inhaling fumes can cause polymer fume fever, which leads to temporary flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, headaches, chest discomfort, and body aches. These symptoms could take as much as a few hours to appear, and should be resolved in a day or two. However, if a more serious case occurs or your symptoms fail to subside, seek medical help.

It’s worth noting that because of their fragile respiratory systems, Teflon fumes are deadly to birds. Pet birds should be kept away from Teflon fumes or they will likely suffocate.

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How to Lower Your Risk When Using Teflon

There are many alternatives to Teflon pots and pans, but if replacements are not an option, it’s important to follow safety guidelines. Some things you can do to minimize the harm Teflon can cause you include the following.

Avoid High Heat Cooking

Because of the toxic gasses emitted by Teflon cookware in high-heat, stick to low to medium temperature and avoid using Teflon under a broiler.

Don’t Preheat Empty Cookware

Pots and pans that are empty can reach high temperatures much faster than cookware filled with food or liquid, releasing the fumes you’re trying to avoid with less-aggressive heating.

Use Ventilation

When cooking with Teflon products, be sure you keep fumes clear by turning on exhaust fans or opening windows.

Don’t Use Metal Utensils

Metal cooking utensils will scratch up the cookware, lowering its lifespan. Instead, stick with silicon, wooden, or plastic utensils.

Hand Wash Cookware

Wash the pots and pans gently, and avoid rough cleaning sponge like steel wool or scouring pads that will scratch the surface.

Use New Pots and Pans

Be sure that you’re using cookware manufactured since 2013 so you can avoid PFOA.

Should I Throw Out My Teflon Pans? Using Cookware Besides Non-Stick Teflon

When it comes to toxins, there are much better solutions than continuing to use the product and mitigating damage. In particular, if you are someone who is pregnant, breastfeeding, or even if you already have kids, you should consider switching because Teflon chemicals may cause issues relating to child development.

There are certainly a wide range of functional, safe alternatives. These other options for cookware can be more reliable, with fewer uncertainties regarding toxicity. Here are our favorites.

Stainless Steel

This option is scratch-resistance, durable, and dishwasher safe. It also heats evenly, and is well priced. While stainless steel is not nonstick, oil or butter work very well, and it’s still a reliable and safe alternative.

Cast Iron

Properly seasoned cast iron is naturally non-stick, making it a great alternative. The material is long-lasting, non-toxic, and can withstand very high temperatures. Cast iron can also stay hotter for longer.

Cast iron cookware


Stoneware has been used for thousands of years for some fairly obvious reasons. It heats evenly and is scratch-resistant. Just like cast iron cookware, stoneware can be nonstick when seasoned properly.


While new in comparison to some of the other products listed above, ceramic cookware has an excellent nonstick coating. It is also safer than Teflon and easy to clean. However, the coating can be easily scratched.

Be Aware of Toxins In Your Kitchen

Teflon cookware has been on the market for decades, and it’s time to find safer alternatives. Although Teflon has been PFOA-free since 2015, the company has shown that they don’t put consumer safety first when creating cookware. Many of their current chemical components are unknown at best. At worst, they are equally as harmful as PFOA without the product warnings to say so. Research regarding Teflon and its current chemical composition is still ongoing, and suggests more safety issues on the horizon.

Overall, it’s better to find a non-Teflon alternative you can be sure won’t put you at risk. It has been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, developmental problems, immune system damage, and other health concerns. By keeping your kitchen free of toxic compounds, you and your family can lead a cleaner, healthier life. There are plenty of other non-stick cookware options available that don’t come with these risks. For more information about other toxic household chemicals and detoxing from these harmful compounds never hesitate to check the Alternative to Meds Center blog for more information. Stay safe!


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2. Begley, T. H., White, K., Honigfort, P., Twaroski, M. L., Neches, R., & Walker, R. A. (2005). Perfluorochemicals: potential sources of and migration from food packaging. Food additives and contaminants, 22(10), 1023–1031.

3. Bartell, S. M., & Vieira, V. M. (2021). Critical review on PFOA, kidney cancer, and testicular cancer. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (1995), 71(6), 663–679.

4. Naftalovich, R., Naftalovich, D., & Greenway, F. L. (2016). Polytetrafluoroethylene Ingestion as a Way to Increase Food Volume and Hence Satiety Without Increasing Calorie Content. Journal of diabetes science and technology, 10(4), 971–976.

5. Steenland, K., Fletcher, T., Stein, C. R., Bartell, S. M., Darrow, L., Lopez-Espinosa, M. J., Barry Ryan, P., & Savitz, D. A. (2020). Review: Evolution of evidence on PFOA and health following the assessments of the C8 Science Panel. Environment international, 145, 106125.

6. Calafat, A. M., Wong, L. Y., Kuklenyik, Z., Reidy, J. A., & Needham, L. L. (2007). Polyfluoroalkyl chemicals in the U.S. population: data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2004 and comparisons with NHANES 1999-2000. Environmental health perspectives, 115(11), 1596–1602.

7. Trumka, R., (2022). Statement: EPA takes bold action to alert the public about deadly risks of PFAS & PFOS in water supply; If there is no safe level in water, CPSC must examine whether we should allow PFAS & PFOS in consumer products. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Retrieved August 4, 2022, from

8. EPA, (2022). Drinking water health advisories for PFOA and PFOS. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved August 4, 2022, from

Originally Published Sept. 27, 2022 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Is Teflon Toxic?
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