Q. I was recently in the pots and pans section at Target and came across Greenpan, a supposedly eco-friendly nonstick pan. Is this for real, or just more eco hype? – Emily, NY

A. With so much green washing going on these days, we can’t blame you for being a little skeptical. Actually though, Greenpan’s eco-claims do seem legit. One of the reasons Greenpan is, well, green, is that it’s 100 percent PFOA- and PTFE-free. Traditional non-stick pans like Dupont’s Teflon-based nonstick cookware use PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), which is a synthetic chemical that’s used to manufacture PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). PFOA is infamous for its amazing ability to kill birds when its fumes are released into the air. It’s also been shown to cause health problems in people. This alarming news is probably why Dupont recently announced its plans to phase out PFOAs in its cookware by 2015.

Greenpan also claims (and this checks out, too, as far as we can tell) that production of Thermolon-coated cookware releases 60% fewer greenhouse gases than does production of traditional PTFE-based non-stick technology. That’s because it cures more quickly, and at lower temperatures.

Unfortunately, the eco wonder comes with a few caveats. For one, Thermolon’s ceramic non-stick formulation is nanotechnology-based. While manipulating particles at the nano scale is considered safe by lots of scientists, consumers should also know that some in the scientific community question nanotech’s safety. Another sticky issue is that silicone—one of the ingredients in Thermolon’s ceramic non-stick coating (full list of ingredients: oxygen, silicone, carbon, aluminum and titanium)—can be a health issue when mixed with additives. Plus, it’s been known to melt at not so hot temperatures.

If these concerns keep you up at night, go with more tried and true eco friendly options like glass or cast iron cookware. The most important detail to remember (environmentally-speaking) is that if you don’t need cookware, don’t buy it just because some new product has come out. After all, using what you’ve got is usually the most eco way to go.

UPDATE: Thermolon’s non-stick formulation is actually not the product of nanotechnology. It turns out that one of the company’s “over-enthusiastic” copy writers slipped that description in because it “sounded high-tech,” not because it was true.

If Greenpan’s flip-flopping on the product description makes you wonder about the validity of the company’s other claims, go with more tried and true eco friendly options like glass or cast iron cookware. The most important detail to remember (environmentally-speaking) is that if you don’t need cookware, don’t buy it just because some new product has come out. After all, using what you’ve got is usually the most eco-way to go.

  

Story by Jessica A. Knoblauch. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in September 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

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