Just How Much is the Stuff of Teflon® Sticking It to Us? Are Fluorinated Compounds the New Chlorinated Compounds?

They are among the world’s most recognizable brands and shining symbols of life made simpler by modern miracles of technology. Teflon. Stainmaster®. Scotchgard®. SilverStone®. When these brands are around, things don’t stick, stains don’t stain, and we don’t have to scrub stuff nearly as much as we used to. Recent evidence, however, suggests that non-stick coatings may be freeing more than food and spilled grape juice. They may be letting loose the molecules they’re made from and sticking with us for a very long while.

From Teflon pans to Stainmaster carpets, non-stick materials have become such an integral part of American homes, that they’re now part of our vernacular. Ronald Reagan was christened the Teflon president because controversy seemed to bounce right off his administration while reputed gangster John Gotti was called the Teflon Don because prosecutors could never get their charges to stick.

From Scotchgard to Silverstone, today’s non-stick materials are based on a class of compounds called perfluorochemicals, or PFCs. PFCs share some unique properties that make them extremely useful. Resistant to chemicals and heat, virtually nothing sticks to or can be absorbed by PFCs or products made from them. These attributes make them ideal coatings for cookware, upholstery, food packaging, appliances, clothing, and many other kinds of products. PFCs are also used in things like floor wax and shampoos because they have an innate ability to repel grease and oils.

The PFC family of chemicals consists of a variety of different substances. Chief among these is a compound called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. PFOA is a key building block of many non-stick products. It also is created when other types of PFCs break down during use.

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ps - some at BSI are phasing out t-fal pots and pans in favor of their great grandmothers cast iron skillets handed down over the generations. others are using fluropolyers all the live long day. Choose your own adventure!

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