Indian cooking involves a lot of frying and slow cooking. If you are little careless or if you are stingy with the fat or oil, it is very possible that the food that you are making may end up being burnt. Dosas and stir fires can quickly turn carbon black if the stove is left unattended for a while. For such situations non stick cookware is a real blessing and now a common sight in most households. Not only for these reasons, there are many people who cannot consume oil in large quantities because of high cholesterol levels. Even those who are on a diet or those who desire to lose some weight prefer to cut down on oil. In all such cases, non stick cookware comes in very handy. It is very convenient to use and clean as well.
Alas this benefit comes at a cost! Non stick cookware is mostly metal cookware which is coated with polytetrafluoroethylene, also called Teflon. Teflon emits toxic fumes when it is overheated. It is trademark of the French Company DuPont. These fumes cause flu like symptoms called Teflon flu. If the solid particles of Teflon flake off and are ingested with food, this does not cause any problem as solid Teflon particles are inert. Most non stick cookware do bear warnings against high temperatures. Tests have shown that even heating on a normal stove top can cause the Teflon coating to break off and emit fumes within a short period of two to three minutes. The long term exposure to Teflon fumes has not been studied completely, but short term effects include Teflon flu. It is accompanied by chills, fever, headaches, coughing and tightness of the chest. These symptoms usually occur several hours after exposure, so most of those affected do not make the association. The substance has been found in the bodies of most Americans and it can cause low birth weight, increased cholesterol levels, abnormal thyroid levels, liver inflammation and weakened immune system.
While it may be advisable to avoid non sick cookware, it may be useful to follow a few simple rules if you are forced to use them. Never heat the cookware to high temperatures, that is, do not preheat it to a high degree. Do not put it an oven that is hotter than five hundred degrees. Use an exhaust fan over the stove to suck away any fumes given off by the utensil. Keep pets away from the kitchen as the fumes can kill a pet bird very quickly. Teflon has been found to reduce fertility in lab animals and also leads to an increase of tumors in the liver and pancreas.
In January, the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued stricter norms for using Teflon in cookware. The Agency has asked manufacturers to phase out Teflon from utensils by the end of 2015. Today ceramic cookware is becoming more and more an option to Teflon coated cookware. Ceramic is also quite non stick and can withstand very high temperatures. They are expensive, but where health is concerned, it may be wise to look for alternatives to Teflon.