2005-11-22

Microwave popcorn kills!

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"Eating microwave pop corn may expose people to chemicals that break down to produce PFOA, a suspected carcinogen."
Some background is required here for the uninitiated. Teflon (a brand name of Dupont) is a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) that is supposed to be safe, but when heated to very high temperatures is known to give off toxic gasses. One of these toxic gasses is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA or C8) and is thought to be a likely carcinogen (causes cancer). Other gases given off allegedly will kill small birds and cause polymer fume fever in people (flu like symptoms). The temperature for these gasses to be emitted was reportedly very high and Teflon (PTFE) was deemed safe for cooking.

However, the safe temperature may not be that high. There is a lot of research in the works to measure just how low the temperature has to be for Teflon to start giving off toxic gasses at an unsafe level. Apparently microwave oven popcorn bags are turning up very nasty results indeed. Allegedly pans are not a major source of PTFE fumes, but does that mean they are safe? Are any non-stick surfaces safe? Not according to bird owners but the research continues.

There are other reasons to avoid Microwave Popcorn. Eight workers contracted a rare deadly lung disease that CDC investigations determined was induced by exposure to the fumes from microwave popcorn flavouring. These workers were exposed to large amounts of these vapours but authorities were quick to say that there is no evidence that these vapours are harmful to consumers in the low levels that people are exposed to. This is simply scientific weasel speak saying that they don't know. "There is no evidence that this chemical will harm you" is a long way from "This chemical is safe". Do you really like microwave popcorn that much that you are willing to risk it. It is quite easy to make your own popcorn without a microwave - and MUCH cheaper.

I thought that it would be a simple matter to just avoid any teflon coated products. My pan was due for ditching anyway as the surface was looking like a four day old cricket pitch. So I went to the local stores in search of a new pan. Not surprisingly, nearly all of the pans in most shops are Teflon (or similar) coated. There is this new ceramic titanium coating which looked really neat, but was very expensive. I was just after a nice stainless steel job. Not too hard to find. A nice thick base for even heat distribution and a good long handle for ... keeping the burnt offerings of an accidently incinerated frying incident at a good distance I guess. Cleaning stainless steel is a LOT easier than I thought it would be, non-stick aint the only easy to clean game in town. I am exceedingly happy with my Chef Inox 28cm Professional stainless steel frypan and there are many other brands out there that I am sure I would have been equally pleased with.

However, getting a stainless steel or ceramic rice cooker or bread maker seems to be impossible. I contacted Brevile, who made my current model rice cooker, and they replied back that they had no stainless steel equivalent. Nothing in the works? Hmmm. I checked around and there are plenty stainless steel rice cookers but the bowl is always non-stick coated, just the shell is stainless steel. Bastards! I didn't even bother with bread makers.

I predict that PTFE toxicity will be a big thing. In the meantime, throw out your non-stick (PTFE) coated pans, and don't eat microwave oven popcorn. Or possibly not.

read more | digg story

Is microwave popcorn the new asbestos?
Why you should not cook with telfon

2 comments:

mkli said...

Hey, in searching for ceramic rice cookers, I came across your post. I also came across this ceramic rice cooker.

Otherwise, there are always the plethora of ceramic/stoneware pots available at Asian (Chinese/Vietnamese/etc.) stores, which work well if you have a gas cooktop.

neoporcupine said...

Thank you mkli, although I am not sure that this item doesn't have a teflon coated inside. I have seen a number of ceramic cooking appliances that have only a ceramic shell then have teflon coated metal inside. Will have to check it out next time I am in Guangdong.