Why you can't always trust claims on nontoxic cookware

ByNydia Han and Heather Grubola WPVI logo
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Why you can't always trust claims on nontoxic cookware
Researchers have linked PFAS chemicals in nonstick cookware to a growing list of health problems, including liver damage, lower immunity and cancers.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- If you're in the market for new pans in the new year, there is some important information about the non-stick variety you should know..

You might notice labels saying the pans are nontoxic and made without dangerous chemicals. But can these claims be trusted? Consumer Reports wondered the same thing and tested three recommended nonstick pans to find out.

For decades PFAS, also known as "forever chemicals," have been widely used in nonstick cookware. But in recent years, researchers have linked PFAS to a growing list of health problems, including liver damage, lower immunity in kids, and certain cancers.

Using pans with these chemicals could expose you to PFAS, especially if pans are scratched or overheated.

Many newer nonstick pans are claimed to be free of some of the most widely known PFAS, including PFOA. But are they really free? Consumer Reports wanted to find out.

CR tested two ceramic-coated pans, the Our Place Always Pan and the Red Copper pan, and one with a traditional nonstick coating made from PTFE, the Swiss Diamond pan, which came with a "PFOA-free" claim.

The testing is intense, requiring hours of work by specially trained technicians using a rotating tool, scraping coatings from 30 samples of the three pans. The samples were tested for 96 different PFAS chemicals, including PFOA.

The results?

The two ceramic pans didn't contain any of the 96 PFAS CR testers looked for. It was a different story for the PTFE-coated pan.

CR's tests found that the Swiss Diamond pan had measurable amounts of PFOA and several other PFAS. Swiss Diamond's U.S. distributor challenged CR's results, saying that the manufacturer had used PFOA-free raw materials since 2007 and that the high temperatures used in the coating process would remove any PFOA.

To avoid PFAS in your cookware, CR recommends buying products with "PTFE-free claims," such as pans with ceramic coatings. Uncoated pans made from carbon steel and cast iron can be good options, too.

Other ways to avoid PFAS include testing your drinking water and using a water filter certified to reduce PFAS. And avoid stain-resistant clothes.