Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Home & Hearth: Readers Questions

Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Today I have two interesting questions from readers.

Have you heard anything about the harmful effects if the Teflon coating on my skillets etc. comes off? If it is getting into the food, is this harmful to me? ~Linda Boyd

My understanding that the problem is not with the Teflon coming off into our food, but with the fumes that may be released from the material if it reaches a certain temperature. There is a lot of unresearched information on both sides.

Dupont does "publicly acknowledge['s] that Teflon© can kill birds", but they say that's as far as it goes. Apparently if a pan gets too hot, the fumes can kill a canary or other bird that is close to the cooking area. This is very factual and is common knowledge among people who raise birds. However Dupont insists it's safe for people:

"We recommend cooking using coated non-stick cookware at low to medium heat," says Dupont's Rich Angiullo. "We know (our product) can withstand temperatures up to 500 F, well above any of the recommended temperatures for frying or baking."

From the Dupont website: "DuPont non-stick coatings will not begin to significantly decompose until temperatures exceed about 660°F (349°C) - well above the smoke point for cooking oil, fats or butter. It is therefore unlikely that decomposition temperatures for non-stick cookware would be reached while cooking without burning food to an inedible state."

Conclusion: I'd be cautious. Don't cook at high heat-- throw out any that look like they are really starting to scrape off easily. If you go to replace your pans consider another type. According to USA Today: Polytetrafluoroethylene, which is in non-stick coatings, can be found in irons, pans, skillets,wafflemakers, woks, ovens, bread makers, electric heaters, heat lamps, computer printers, light bulbs and the cookware.

I just have a question about something old. Have you ever heard of cresolene? It was used in a little lamp as a vaporizer. The lamps are antiques now, but I can't find cresolene to go it. Do you know if it is still made? And where one could obtain it? ~Mary B

I found this from Joyner Library,East Carolina University:

The inhaler was sold by the Vapo Cresolene Company from 1879 through the 1920's and was used as a treatment for whooping cough, asthma, croop, and for colds. The inhaler could be lit and placed on a bed side table to heat gently through the night, causing vapors to relieve cough and cold symptoms. The vapo cresolene inhaler was eventually replaced by the electric vaporizer.

My understanding of this lamp is that it was heated with kerosene, and in the top of it where the little dish area is, different liquids would be put in there-- often a creosole based product, and believe it or not, sometimes opium based products that were used in it back then. I don't think you can get what they originally used, and I would be hesitant to use the lamp the way it was meant to be because the kerosene would also have fumes. . As I was researching this, I thought of the modern infusers used for essential oils. They would do much the same thing, but in a safer manner.



  1. There is also a new "green pan" that just came out made by Thermolon. I have posted the review of it I did for FabulousFoods.com below:

    Looking for non-stick cookware but concerned about toxic chemicals leaching into your foods and your body? You’re not alone as many folks are concerned about the effects of nonstick coatings that flake off traditional nonstick cookware. Help is now here in the form of the Green Pan -- the first cookware to have Thermolon nonstick technology. The ceramic based, nano nonstick Green Pan with Thermolon Technology does not contain any PTFE nor is it manufactured with PFOA. It was developed to be the last cookware you'll have to buy and it won't break down or wear over time. The superior 850-degree nonstick release feature is a first! Because nothing will stick, this cookware allows you to cook healthier with no need for added butters, fats or oils.

    We’ve been using a Green Pan in the FabulousFoods.com test kitchens for a few months now. We have to say it has held up well (and we’re notoriously not careful with cookware). We have had foods stick at lower temperatures, but as long as you take the time to preheat the pan, it functions just as well as traditional nonstick cookware. Recommended.

  2. Brenda: Thanks for sharing such great information - I represent DuPont, and would like to help clarify some of the myths around Teflon-coated cookware for your readers.

    Because birds have extremely sensitive respiratory systems, bird owners must take precautions to protect them. Cooking fumes, smoke and odors that have little or no effect on people can seriously sicken and even kill birds, often quite quickly. Cooking fumes from any type of unattended or overheated cookware, not just non-stick, can damage a bird's lungs with alarming speed. This is why bird owners should take steps to protect their pets, such as keeping their birds out of the kitchen, never leaving cookware unattended, never allowing pots and pans to overheat, and making sure that their kitchen is properly ventilated at all times.

    Particles from Teflon branded coatings in cookware are not harmful, even if ingested. Confidence in the safety and performance of DuPont non-stick coatings is based on more than 40 years of laboratory testing and use in home and commercial kitchens.

    If you or your readers would like some more information, or just want to check out some great recipes, take a look at http://www.teflon.com Thanks!

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