Cookware makes a great holiday gift, and if you’re shopping for nonstick pans, you might notice labels saying the pans are nontoxic and made without dangerous chemicals.
Consumer Reports wondered if the claims could be trusted so its experts tested three recommended nonstick pans.
PFAS in cookware
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,” said Consumer Reports Health Editor Kevin Loria.
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 tested two ceramic-coated pans -- the Our Place Always Pan and the Red Copper pan. They also tested 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.
Consumer Reports says the two ceramic pans did NOT contain any of the 96 PFAS its testers looked for. But it was a different story for the PTFE-coated pan.
“Our tests found that the Swiss Diamond pan had measurable amounts of PFOA and several other PFAS,” said Loria.
Swiss Diamond’s U.S. distributor challenged Consumer Reports’ 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, Consumer Reports 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.