My in-laws own two exotic birds of which I had the opportunity of caring for while they took a well earned vacation overseas. As my mother-in-law broke down her rules, she mentioned that the nonstick coating of their pans should not be heated dry because the fumes could kill the birds. I didn’t know this little “fact”, so after saying our goodbyes I decided to check some credible internet sites.
Early in the twentieth century canaries were brought into mines to detect toxic gas. When the toxic levels exceeded hazardous amounts, the canary would become sick and miners would evacuate. Hearing about these bird deaths in the kitchen had me worried. I had replaced my nonstick with stainless a long time ago because the coating would become brown and useless after a few years and I grew weary of constantly buying pans. I had never heard of them killing a pet and with all the hype about diethylhexyl adipate released during microwaving plastics, I wondered if the brown tainted nonstick coating could also be harmful to people.
Perusing bird-friendly websites provided information on nonstick coatings releasing bird-killing toxins into the air, PTFE Toxicosis, but they weren’t specific as to what toxins they released or if it could migrate to your food. Checking an online Teflon Material Safety Data Sheet provided some answers.
- Teflon heated to 500 degrees F will degrade the polytetrafluorethylene(ptfe) and release carbon, fluorine, and oxygen into the air creating flu-like symptoms in humans and apparently killing birds.
- The brown oxidation that results from the heating and reheating of nonstick coated pots and pans is a symptom of this chemical release, and those chemicals could migrate to your food.
According to the MSDS there are no known chronic affects and no medical conditions which are aggravated by this release, even though the bird sites seem to think so, and using a nonstick Teflon coated pan should be nonfatal. The fact that the coating does break down over time still steers me away from this added expense, and why risk the possible lung irritation.
With all the additives approved by the FDA that by themselves are relatively harmless, what possible unwarranted complications could the migration of chemicals leached from your own pots and pans cause? Mixing chemicals is never a good idea so I always stride on the side of safety and use stainless steel for my cooking. They may be more difficult to cook with but they last forever and burnt food will never destroy your good stainless steel pans. No matter how burnt it is.