Toxic frying pan
From: Elizabeth Stevenson (
Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2001 12:00:05 -0600 (MDT)
I debated whether to send this to the list or not, but it is a legitimate
concern, not a chain letter. And I think that since we eat together, we need
to take care of that environment.

This is from my sister, whose husband apparently knows or works with the guy
who forwarded this.

Liz Stevenson
Southside Park Cohousing
Sacramento California

July 18, 2001
>From a press release
The next time you reach for your non-stick frying pan to scramble some eggs,
you may want to think again. Researchers at the University of Toronto,
Environment Canada and University of Guelph have discovered that using
products containing Teflon and other fluorinated polymers releases a
cocktail of chemicals into the environment. In a study to be published in
the July 19 issue of Nature, researchers found that fluorinated polymers
degrade when heated. They produce, among other chemicals, trifluoroacetic
acid (TFA), a persistent compound whose long-term effects on the environment
are unknown, trace amounts of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
and longer-chain perfluorocarboxylates, which accumulate in animal tissues.
The use of CFCs -- widely used in refrigeration systems, aerosols, styrofoam
and other products in the 1960s and 70s -- has been replaced by
hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) gases. Unlike
CFCs, these gases break down in the atmosphere and return to Earth in the
form of rainwater. However, the rainwater can contain TFA, an acidic
byproduct that takes many decades to degrade. "By measuring TFA levels in
rainwater over the last three to four years, researchers estimated there
should be 100 to 120 parts per trillion in the water by the year 2020," says
David Ellis, lead author of the study and PhD graduate, now working in U of
T's chemistry department. "We unexpectedly discovered the TFA levels have
far exceeded that amount and we wanted to know why." The researchers
hypothesized that fluorinated polymers like Teflon were to blame. They
heated various products containing fluoropolymers at various temperatures
and found they emitted up to 10 per cent of TFA. They also discovered the
average annual global production of fluorinated polymers was 40,000 tonnes
in 1988, a figure that had increased by more than 200 per cent in 1997.
While research has not uncovered harmful effects of TFA on people, there is
cause for concern, says Scott Mabury, who supervised the study and is a U of
T chemistry professor. "High concentrations of TFA in water can be mildly
phytotoxic (toxic to plants) but, more importantly, it will take decades for
TFA to degrade. We don't know what the long-term environmental impacts are."
The scientists also found that fluoropolymer material releases small amounts
of CFCs into the atmosphere which can contribute to ozone depletion. This
study was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of
Canada; the equipment used in experiments was donated by Perkin Elmer

Ewen C.D. Todd, Ph.D.
The National Food Safety & Toxicology Center
Room 165 Food Safety & Toxicology Building
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI  48824-1314
517-432-3100 - Phone
517-432-2310 - FAX
toddewen [at]

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