Teflon cookware: Does it cause cancer?

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Teflon cookware: Does it cause cancer?

Question

Is it true that Teflon can cause cancer and I should stop using my Teflon-coated cookware right now?

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Answer

Teflon is a product used primarily to coat cookware so that food doesn't stick to it as easily. One of the chemicals used to make Teflon — called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA — has been linked to cancer and birth defects in laboratory animals. There is currently debate about what harm PFOA may pose to humans. In early 2006, a group of scientific advisors to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended that PFOA be classified as a "likely carcinogen" (cancer-causing substance) in humans. However, the EPA has not yet responded to the advisory committee's recommendations.

According to the EPA, trace levels of PFOA have been detected in humans. But it has not yet been determined how humans are exposed to PFOA. Because PFOA stays in the body for a long time, the EPA continues to research the possible adverse health effects of PFOA. At present, the EPA is not advising people to stop using products made with PFOA, such as Teflon-coated cookware.

However, given the evidence of adverse health effects in animals and the uncertain effects in humans, the EPA has asked companies that use PFOA to reduce and eventually eliminate PFOA from products and manufacturing plant emissions.

Last Updated: 02/23/2006
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