Safety in Cookware: PTFE vs Nano-ceramic Coatings?

Belgian cookware manufacturer Beka has come out with a handsome line of products called Beka Eco-Logic which replaces the traditional Teflon anti-stick coatings containing PTFE chemicals with a ceramic coating which they call Bekadur Ceramica.

Like many of the more recent PTFE-free offerings, such as Green Pan, these pans are covered with a durable nano-coating in ceramic. These ceramic coatings are water-based and can resist much higher temperatures than traditional coatings. Debate over the potential health risks of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) - best known by the DuPont brand name Teflon - has raged for years, so at first glance this seems like a no-brainer for any green-minded kitchen.

According to the most conservative scenario, PTFE starts to deteriorate after the temperature of cookware reaches about 260 °C (500 °F), and decomposes above 350 °C (660 °F). This can cause flu-like symptoms in humans.

But the debate on potential health risks of nano-technologies is only just beginning.

The main issue, as stated by ETC in “A Tiny Primer on Nano-Scale Technologies” is “Governments, industry and scientific institutions have allowed nanotech products to come to market in the absence of public debate and regulatory oversight.”

There are very few toxicological studies on engineered nanoparticles “but it appears that nanoparticles as a class are more toxic than larger versions of the same compound because of their mobility and increased reactivity.” This is important because nanoparticles can move easily into the body and slip past the body’s immune system. At 70 nanometres, nanoparticles can burrow deep into lung tissue; a 50 nm particle can slip into cells. Particles as small as 30 nm can cross the blood-brain barrier.

The bottom line is: we just don’t know. And how reassuring is that?

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