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Teflon: Is it Safe?

Teflon: Is it Safe?

What is Teflon?
Teflon is a synthetic polymer consisting of Flourine and Carbon.  Its gneric term is Polytetrafluorethlyene.  DuPont is the primary producer of the synthetic and Teflon is the name associated with that product.  The uses for Teflon are far reaching.  It is noted for its non-stick and non-reactive nature which lends itself in the production of non-stick cookware, containers, pipework and as a lubricant. 

Although Teflon is considered to be a safe material it is only as safe as the person using it.  Teflon has a recommended temperature usage at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  At 300 degrees Fahrenheit the chemical begins to break down and has been known to give off enough toxins at that temperature to kill birds.  At levels reaching higher than this it has been known to cause illness in humans.  A non-stick, Teflon coated pan coated with oil can easily reach temperatures at or above 250 degrees Fahrenheit and when the same pan is exposed to heat on a stove it without the use of cooking oil the temperatures can exceed that leading to flue like symptoms in humans. 
Recent studies have shown that the risks associated with Teflon pans is even more far reaching.  Where DuPont has claimed that a conventional stovetop will not exceed 660 degrees Fahrenheit recent experiments have indicated that a Teflon pan will reach 736 degrees in less than 4 minutes.  This is more than enough to reach toxicity levels that pose a threat to humans.  Another concern is the breakdown of the Teflon over time.  Teflon is in almost everything and even the packaging of popcorn contains some Teflon.  This has resulted in 95% of Americans having some chemical associated with Teflon in their blood.
Government Regulation
The EPA has issued warnings about the use of Teflon and its risk of posing developmental and reproductive in humans.  Chemicals associated with the breakdown of Teflon during heating include liver, pancreatic, testicular and mammary gland tumors, thyroid abnormalities, immune system disorders and reproductive problems including infertility and birth defects.  The EPA has requested that Teflon be taken completely off the market by 2015.

Case Law

In 2005 Dupont settled with the federal government for $313 million over its concealment of harmful conditions associated with Teflon and the chemicals associated with its breakdown and toxicity.  The word is still out on Teflon litigation.  In 2009 a U.S. District Court in Iowa dismissed a $5 billion suit against Dupont for failure to warn and imposing unnecessary health risks to the public.  The suit was dismissed due to the failure of the court to grant the 22 plaintiffs a class action status.  A case based on Teflon’s ability to break down and release toxins at normal cooking levels has yet to be heard on the merits.