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How To Avoid PFAS: Your Guide To Safer, PFAS-Free Cooking

By GreenPan Australia

What is PFAS & why is it so bad? Read GreenPan’s comprehensive PFAS guide on how to avoid PFAS & how PFAS-Free Cookware can make a difference in your cooking.

How To Avoid PFAS: Your Guide To Safer, PFAS-Free Cooking

“Muuuuuuum! I’m HUNGRYYYY! Dinner is taking FOREVER!”

  • Average time to prepare a meal: 41 minutes

“My Grandma in Darwin sent me a parcel, and it took FOREVER to arrive.”

  • Estimated shipping time from Darwin to any state capital: 4-5 days

“Darling, I will love you FOREVER”

  • Median length of marriage in Australia: 12.8 years

The word “forever” is bandied about a lot these days. With the frenetic pace of modern existence, attention spans seem to be evaporating, and patience is becoming one of life’s scarcest commodities.

However, some things are far more deserving of the “forever” tag. Unfortunately, many of them are pretty nasty. This is no more true than for PFAS—often called “The Forever Chemicals.” While you may not have heard of them before, PFAS are in your body, food, water, and pretty much everywhere you look. We’re still finding new ways that PFAS can damage your health, but the current list is already scandalously long.

In this blog, we’ll do something Mother Nature struggles with: break down PFAS and help you avoid it wherever possible.

What is PFAS?

To be precise, that heading should read “What are PFAS?”

PFAS is a family of over 10,000 synthetic chemicals that have become almost ubiquitous in untold thousands of consumer products around the world1.

PFAS stands for “per- and polyflouroalkyl substances.” While the name sounds innocuous enough, PFAS are anything but. They are some of the most stable and persistent chemicals on the planet. Put simply, that means they take a really, really long time to break down. Hence, the foreboding nickname.

Given how widely PFAS are used in a staggering array of products that we use every day, the concentrations of PFAS in the environment - and in our bodies - are steadily rising. Studies have detected PFAS in the bloodstreams of 99% of people tested2. They’ve even been found in the bodies of unborn fetuses3. That means that you have these pernicious little invaders marauding through the byways of your anatomy right now.

Why Are PFAS Used So Widely?

Their unparalleled stability ensures that PFAS chemicals are exceptionally resistant to oil, water, heat and stains. This superpower makes them extraordinarily popular with manufacturers that need an affordable way to give their products those qualities.

What Products Contain PFAS?

The list of products that typically contain PFAS could go on “forever” (pun intended), but here are some of the main offenders:

  • Food containers
  • Cosmetics
  • Hair shampoo and conditioner
  • Sunscreen
  • Dental floss
  • Clothing
  • Mattresses
  • Carpet
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Cleaning products
  • Electronics
  • Adhesives
  • Paints & varnishes

And, of course,

Unfortunately, PFAS chemicals last hundreds, if not thousands, of years longer than the items that contain them. So, as the product degrades, the PFAS chemicals inside it leach out into the groundwater, eventually finding their way into the food you eat or directly into your water tap and then your body.

How Toxic is PFAS?

Animal studies have shown conclusively that even at low concentrations, PFAS can:

  • Disrupt hormonal systems
  • Promote cancer, especially testicular and kidney cancers
  • Reduce the effectiveness of vaccines in children
  • Alter immune systems and thyroid function
  • Cause liver damage
  • Interfere with the reproductive system
  • Impact fetal development, including low birth weight, birth defects, and even newborn death
  • Contribute to lipid and insulin dysregulation, potentially contributing to obesity and diabetes
  • Contribute to cardiovascular problems

Before you consider running for the hills to live in a treehouse (that won’t help you anyway; PFAS have been detected in Antarctica, so they’re there as well), it’s important to remember that these are animal studies. Additionally, the animals involved in these studies were exposed to far higher levels of PFAS than we would ordinarily encounter in regular life.

When it comes to humans, studies are still ongoing, and the data is more patchy. However, preliminary indications are that many, if not all, of the above concerns are well-founded.

In case you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security, the data we have comes primarily from comprehensive studies on only two PFAS chemicals: PFOA and PFOS. There are moves to ban these prime suspects in Australia. However, this leaves thousands of other unregulated PFAS nasties, the health effects of which are almost completely unknown. PFOA has already been banned in the USA, however, industries simply switched to other PFAS chemicals that appear to be equally problematic but are not included in the ban. There’s precious little reason to expect that Australian manufacturers will behave any differently. With the list of PFAS compounds at 10,000 and growing, it seems likely that the PFAS chemicals currently in the wild will have degraded before governments manage to catch up with effective legislation.

How Long Do PFAS Take To Breakdown?

This is a tough one to answer as the degradation rate of each PFAS chemical is different. Having said that, it appears that many of them take at least hundreds of years to break down. It is estimated that the more stable compounds could remain unchanged for thousands. While that is not precisely “forever”, as far as you and I are concerned, it may as well be.

Consider this: the PFAS in the takeaway container your next fast-food meal comes in could end up in a glass of water that will one day be drunk by your great x 40 grandchildren.

In the human body, the news is slightly less terrifying. Studies show that PFAS do not break down in our bodies. They do eventually make their way through the forward exit, but not until they have been causing havoc therein for a number of years. Those two studies we mentioned above showed that PFOA and PFOS can last in our systems for 3.5 and 4.8 years, respectively. Other varieties have been shown to linger for as long as 7.3 years4.

Just to reiterate, once the PFAS have left your body, they’re still wholly intact. There’s every chance that their journey will take them into the ocean, where they will be gobbled up by a fish, which eventually finds itself on your dinner plate, and therewith right back where it started!

Unless serious measures are taken to limit the use of PFAS or remove them from the environment, the quantities on the loose will continue to rise, and so will their concentration in our bodies and those of our children.

PFAS Chemicals in Cookware

It should come as no surprise that PFAS’ natural water, grease, and temperature-resistant properties make it the absolutely perfect substance for non-stick cookware. Unsuspecting manufacturers pounced on this early and determined that pots and pans coated with PTFE (a notorious PFAS) were the answer to every chef’s dreams.

And we all thought they were right until the same PTFE started showing up in drinking water near cookware manufacturing facilities5. Other coatings containing PFOA and PFOS were also tried, but the result was always the same.

PFAS chemicals are applied to non-stick coatings at extremely high temperatures. Through this process, some less stable molecules are vaporised and enter the atmosphere.

To make matters worse, there is evidence to suggest that once non-stick coatings are chipped or start to peel, PFAS chemicals can escape during cooking and are either absorbed by the food or the air that we breathe in the kitchen. That old story of budgies falling dead off their perches when their owners are frying eggs may be an urban myth, but there is reason to believe that unless the surface is entirely intact, our trusty pans can present a risk to our health.

GreenPan’s PFAS-Free Cookware

While governments commission studies into PFAS, more products containing newer varieties of PFAS keep rolling off production lines across the globe. In so doing, the amount of PFAS loitering with menace in every nook and cranny of the planet for the next 1000 years keeps rising.

We really dislike PFAS here at GreenPan. Our commitment to healthy, eco-friendly cooking drove us to develop ThermolonTM, the original PFAS-free non-stick ceramic coating. Unlike most other cookware manufacturers, we developed ThermolonTM ourselves, so we know exactly what goes into it. Rather than relying on another material manufacturer’s say-so, we can say with absolute certainty that our ThermolonTM-coated cookware is 100% free from PFAS and other harmful chemicals.

In addition to being a safer and healthier option, our PFAS-Free non-stick cookware offers an exceptional cooking experience. The non-stick coating makes cooking and washing up a breeze. This is why GreenPan truly offers every home chef the best of both worlds when it comes to non-toxic, high-performance cookware. It’s no wonder that GreenPan has fast become a household name in kitchens across Australia and the globe.

We all want to do what we can to keep our planet, and ourselves healthy. From pots and pans to PFAS-free slow cookers, air fryers and more, GreenPan’s stunning range of products are not only beautiful and high-performing, but also a healthier choice for you and your family.

For more information on GreenPan products, browse our cookware range today.

End Notes

1European Chemicals Agency: ECHA publishes PFAS restriction proposal https://echa.europa.eu/-/echa-publishes-pfas-restriction-proposal

2Chemtrust: PFAS the “Forever Chemicals” - Invisible threats from persistent chemicals https://chemtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/PFAS_Brief_CHEMTrust_2019.pdf

3Frontiers in Endocrinology: Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Substances During Pregnancy and Fetal BDNF Level: A Prospective Cohort Study https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/endocrinology/articles/10.3389/fendo.2021.653095/full

4Environmental Research: Estimation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) half-lives in human studies: a systematic review and meta-analysis https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935123025471?via%3Dihub

5Fortune.com: Teflon’s River of Fear https://fortune.com/longform/teflon-pollution-north-carolina/