Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Teflon: The Sticky Business?
I just read that something used to make Teflon is carcinogenic. Many of my pans are Teflon coated. Should I throw them away?
Answer (Published 9/9/2005)

The chemical in question is perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA or C-8, used to make Teflon and other stain- and stick-resistant materials including Gore-Tex fabrics and pizza boxes. In June 2005 a scientific advisory panel to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified PFOA as a "likely carcinogen" but drew no conclusions as to whether products made with it pose a cancer risk to humans. However, it did say that animal studies have identified four types of tumors in rats and mice exposed to PFOA.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Anti-Inflammatory Diet Source - Want to promote overall health and help minimize the risk of inflammatory diseases? Join Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging, your online guide to the anti-inflammatory diet. Start your 14-day free trial now for access to shopping and eating guides, hundreds of recipes, an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid and more!

The panel's findings should prompt the EPA to undertake a cancer-risk assessment of PFOA to see if it influences the development of cancer in humans. A study now underway is looking at potential health problems among thousands of residents of Ohio and West Virginia who have filed a lawsuit alleging that DuPont withheld information concerning the threat to human health posed by PFOA. Concentrations of the chemical have been found in drinking water from supplies near a DuPont plant in West Virginia. Also at issue for the EPA: the question of whether the DuPont company, which manufactures Teflon, knew that PFOA was a likely carcinogen and kept that information to itself.

Note that the danger of exposure to PFOA concerns those involved in the manufacturing of Teflon, not users of Teflon-coated cookware. Teflon itself appears safe unless it is heated to high temperatures, when it emits fumes toxic enough to poison caged birds in kitchens (birds are much more sensitive to these fumes than humans and other mammals). The exact temperature at which this occurs is not clear. DuPont has long acknowledged that heating Teflon cookware to temperatures as low as 464 degrees is harmful to birds but has said that the fumes aren't a problem for humans because most consumers don't exceed that temperature when cooking. But that may not be so, especially if you leave a Teflon-coated pan unattended on the stove. If Teflon fumes can poison birds, what can they do to us? Probably nothing good.

I have a Teflon coated skillet that is very convenient, but I use it for controlled-temperature sauteing (i.e., with some liquid in the pan) and never let it get too hot.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here