Whether you need a 13×9 pan to bake your favorite casserole or a skillet to whip up an easy one-dish dinner, chances are you reach for what you thought was perfectly safe nonstick cookware. But according to a recent investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), those pots and pans could actually contain harmful chemicals, which could make them one of the common kitchen items that are secretly toxic.
Here’s everything you need to know (and why you should even care). Plus, we offer tips for spotting the difference between safe nonstick cookware and toxic nonstick cookware.
What the study found
Based on its findings, the FDA reported that PFAs (a group of 5,000 synthetic chemicals that are also known as “forever chemicals”) are present in about 98 percent of Americans’ bloodstreams. And one of the major sources? The food we eat, the Environmental Protection Agency claims, noting that the dangerous substances are absorbed into food from things like nonstick cookware.
Here’s what you need to know
While the FDA says that the levels of PFAs are not yet high enough to be harmful to our health, that doesn’t mean that the recent results aren’t troubling. After all, PFAs (which can flake off into your food when you’re cooking over high heat) have been associated with serious health risks including cancer, infertility, and kidney or liver damage—to name a few.
And even though scientists don’t know the exact effects of PFAs on our bodies, it’s always smart to avoid exposing yourself to toxic, manufactured substances when possible. Beware these cooking mistakes that can also make your food toxic.
How to choose safe nonstick cookware
As a result of the study, many PFAs have been banned from being used to produce pots and pans moving forward. But if you’re in the market for a new set right now, stay away from aluminum and Teflon materials, which can contain high levels of PFAs and other chemicals. Instead, follow this guide to buying nonstick cookware and look for non-toxic materials like ceramic, stainless steel, or tempered glass.
And to make your safe nonstick cookware last longer (and prevent it from releasing any potentially harmful chemicals), make sure you clean it properly and avoid chipping the pan with metal utensils or cooking over high heat, both of which can cause PFAs to enter your food or the air you’re breathing. You can also take a look at this guide to the safe types of cookware you should be buying.