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What is Teflon®?

Teflon® is a brand of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a solid polymer that is considered to be one of the world's most slippery substances. Accidentally invented in 1938 a laboratory in Deepwater, New Jersey, in the United States, Teflon® has applications in a wide range of areas, including household goods, the aerospace industry, electronics and industrial processes. Teflon® is produced by E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, also known as DuPont.


A cooking pan coated in Teflon®.
A cooking pan coated in Teflon®.

PTFE is a fluorocarbon, a compound made up of carbon and fluorine, and it has the molecular formula (C2F4)n. A chemist named Roy Plunkett accidentally invented PTFE while trying to create a new chlorofluorocarbon in a New Jersey laboratory operated by Kinetic Chemicals Inc., a company that was co-founded by DuPont and General Motors. Plunkett discovered that the white, wax-like substance that was created during one of his experiments was extremely slippery and water-resistant. The substance was patented in 1941, and the Teflon® trademark was registered in 1945.


The bottom of an iron with a Teflon® coating.
The bottom of an iron with a Teflon® coating.

Teflon® has a coefficient of friction against polished steel of 0.05 to 0.1, which is one of the lowest for any solid that has been measured. This makes it suitable for use in applications that require reduced friction between two solids, such as gears or sliding parts. It also is hydrophobic, which means that it repels water instead of getting wet. Among PTFE's other qualities that make it beneficial for many uses are its high melting point and its electrical insulating properties.


In the 21st century, in addition to its widespread use in manufacturing and industry, PTFE is used on all sorts of everyday items. Many people are familiar with non-stick cooking pots and pans that have been coated with Teflon®. Automobile wiper blades also are commonly coated with PTFE, which helps keep the blades from squeaking as they pass back and forth across the windshield. PTFE also is used as a carpet or fabric protector because it repels liquids, allowing spills to be wiped up without leaving a stain. It has been used on all-weather clothing, to coat eyeglass lenses, as a fingernail protector and even in a line of haircare products.


There has been some concern about the safety of PTFE, especially in cookware. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have stated that the use of this coating on cookware and other items commonly used by people does not pose a concern. DuPont has said that Teflon® coatings do begin to deteriorate at or above 500° Fahrenheit (260° Celsius), a temperature higher than that at which most foods are cooked. Teflon®-coated pans are not recommended for cooking techniques that require very high temperatures, such as broiling.

Discussion Comments


@anon63354: If DuPont was fined by the EPA, then why would the EPA not ban Teflon?

My mother, grandmother and I have been using Teflon pots/pans for years (decades) without any problems. I do not heat an empty pan and I never put my electrical stove on HI but keep it in the 7-8 range (it takes longer to boil that way though). I only use plastic and wood utensils, never metal.

Like someone else pointed out, there are tons of pollutants and gases in our everyday life, so why not be concerned about that too? You're not going to stop driving your car are you?


1) Teflon and other PTFE coatings are chemically inert and will not interact with the body. That's why we use it in labware and body implants. The molecules are simply too large to be absorbed into the body. I have no qualms about accidentally ingesting flakes of Teflon because it'll go right out in the stool.

Only when Teflon is vaporized at >500F is there a problem for humans. PTFE then becomes a mild respiratory irritant that may affect asthmatics and those with respiratory sensitivities. Note that this has NOTHING to do with the possible carcinogen, PFOA.

2) PFOA is *not* a component of non-stick coatings. Dupont claims that PFOA is undetectable in its cured Teflon and the EPA has verified that.

3) However, PFOA is used in the manufacture of non-stick PTFE coatings, including Teflon. But if a pot/pan is properly manufactured and cured, no traces of PFOA will be left on the final product.

The danger of PFOA exposure exists for those working in factories that manufacture Teflon, and those living near the factories. This does not apply to consumers who merely use non-stick pans. This is the part that many consumers don't understand. They confuse exposure to inert Teflon/PTFE with exposure to carcinogenic PFOA, which is only used in its manufacture. A good analogy is this: Dishwashing detergent is toxic. Yet after your dishes have been rinsed and taken out of the dishwasher, are you concerned about how toxic the detergent was? No, because there is no trace of the detergent left on your dishes. The same goes for PFOA. If the pan was properly cured, there should be no trace of PFOA left on the Teflon. The EPA has verified this.

4) To emphasize the evils of Teflon, many perpetuate the myth the government is forcing companies to stop using PFOA by 2015. That's false. To do that, laws would need to be passed. Rather, the companies themselves voluntarily set a goal of non-use by 2015 using guidelines set by the EPA. It is non-enforceable since it has nothing to do with the law. If one company can't meet the goal, nothing will happen.

And again, the reason for discontinuation is the safety of the environment and workers and inhabitants who are continuously exposed to the PFOA (in the manufacture of Teflon and other PTFE non-stick coatings). It has nothing to do with consumers who cook with Teflon pans.


@ anon260881: Teflon's electrical insulation properties put a damper on cellular electrical valences, making you subject to fevers (viruses and other opportunistic organisms attack cells with lower electrical valences); plus, these substances are very hard for the lymph and kidneys to eliminate.

You must walk, since the lymph's only pump is the legs. This is so hard when you're sick, so get a treadmill if you're feverish. It's necessary to prompt the body to eliminate, or it could accumulate in areas and form lymphomas or other leukemias.

Use boswellia, cat claw, goldenseal, neem, osha, calendula (marigold), astragalus, ashwaganda, eleuthero, resveratrol, milk thistle, dandelion, bee propolis, elderberry, cranberry, myrrh, juniper, feverfew, devils claw, yucca, co-Q10 and Vitamins A, C, D3 and E (but don't take A and E together, at the same meal, lest they cancel each other out.)

For pain, glucosamine, MSM, and sea cucumber (astragalus, above-mentioned, is used for cancer pain, by the way.) Use DMSO topically only (MSM is the version of DMSO that's fit for consumption).

You'll need to take one capsule of each morning, noon and night (every day, for several years). The program will work, but it's not covered by insurance, and it takes diligence coupled with the knowledge that your turnaround is coming, but it may take three or four years to completely turn around.

You should feel better within six months, and see steady improvement, with setbacks, until the two-ear point. Between years two and four, you'll notice the setbacks lessen in severity and length. By the fourth year, you'll be working on building up your strength and endurance again, so you'll be able to cover ground during a full work day.

I've used this herbal combination to recover from numerous diseases, conditions and viruses that I'd had most of my life, and had resulted in MS, among many other things. I got so sick I couldn't work in 2006 and was on disability by 2008. By 2009, I started doing this program, because I could no longer get to the doctors, and had nobody to help me (but I could get the herbs delivered to my door).

Now in 2012, I'm able to walk around again, and am doing this each day I'm able. There are minor setbacks: spasms, lower back subluxing, and subsequent crawling around on hands and knees for a week, or walking like Groucho Marx when trying to get back on my feet, for a couple of days, but it gets better sooner, rather than later.

I'm not yet into my fourth year on this herbal program (this is my third year on it), but I've plans to address lymphoma problems this year, and by next year, I hope to get stem cell treatments.

I happen to live relatively near Sloan Kettering, a cancer hospital with a stem cell program. You should find out which cancer hospitals with stem programs are near you, because either breathing in, ingesting, or drinking contaminants can result in the eventual development of leukemia, and they're currently using stem cells as part of the therapeutic treatments.

You mentioned that this happened while machining parts, so perhaps this was breathed in, and has formed a mesothelioma-like problem, but I believe these methods can help you. Good luck! Remember to pray in faith, and be diligent about all you do.


I was poisoned at work machining teflon parts over a three day period. I wasn't warned that human contact is dangerous and took no precautions.

After one year, I am unable to work from the health problems associated with this polymer fever. The doctors are stymied. Any suggestions on how to treat this effectively? I am tired of being sick and tired.


How do I find out if a restaurant cooks with teflon?


I have tried several different sets of teflon coated cookware, made by different companies. I never used anything but plastic utensils on this surface finish, and each time I have had breakage in the finish. I am afraid of the finish because of the chemicals used in it's construction process.

i also have a set of aluminum clad cookware, and none of them have any pits or cracks in the finish, I never use anything other than plastic or wooden utensils on my cookware, therefore I feel that Teflon is very unsafe because it cracks, even under safe usage.


Too be honest, teflon was serendipitously found by young chemist named Roy Plunkett. he was trying to create a cfc gas for Pont De Numar and Companies but instead of a gas he wound up with a slippery polymer powder after that he patented the powder as Poly-Tetra-Fluoro-Ethylene also known as PTFE.

If you are wondering if teflon is dangerous it is not, only when it is heated to extreme heat (that's when the teflon starts to come off), not even then that's too small an amount of Poly-Tetra-Fluoro-Ethylene gas. you are more likely to be poisoned by your carpet than the teflon in a pan.


anon104473: Fluoride is in your toothpaste and tap water. It is a completely harmless chemical when not ingested in large quantities. Which only have minor side effects.


Teflon is fluoride? I think I will avoid that thank you very much.


what is teflon's melting point?


Does anybody ever really read these studies? Look. It is very simple. Teflon is safe on your cookware.

The only time that Teflon is not safe is during the production of it. In other words, at the plant they mix a bunch of different chemicals together, and while mixing them, one out of all the chemicals lets off a gas that is potentially dangerous to birds!

Once it is all mixed together and put into the paint can, before it is shipped to whatever manufacturer is going to be coating your cookware, it is no longer dangerous. If we were really worried about this, by the way, we wouldn't drive cars, smoke cigarettes or eat at any restaurant. Heck, we couldn't even lay down carpet or have a blanket over us when we sleep (all of these things have the same chemicals in them, by the way).

Just be happy you are not scrubbing those old cast iron pans. Happy cooking!


What a brilliant website! Thanks so much, this will help a ton with my school project.


this was most interesting to me and my fellow colleagues at the university. thank you.


i am doing a report on teflon at my school, and this article really helped me a lot! hopefully i get an A!


really before this i thought teflon was pretty safe and good for non stick pans. did anyone else just find out like me?


what was teflon made for?


I reply to these comments as an outside observer; i.e., these are just my opinions.

Anon49141: They say that Teflon is just applied as a coat to the surface of the pans. This being said, Teflon should be resistant to scratches (by definition as, "the most slippery substance that exists"), but I'm sure that scratches are possible with enough force/area applied.

Anon46420: I'm sure it's possible to apply another coat, but probably not for consumers. You would have to take it to the manufacturer, and I'm sure it would cost more than it's worth. Just do your best to not scratch the surface, and replace when necessary.

rjohnson: If you google, "is teflon safe", and select the first article, the EPA says that Teflon is safe for the consumers, so I would not worry about it. The EPA has very strict policies regarding public safety.


rjohnson, you're correct. The EPA recently fined DuPont over 16 million dollars regarding this.


is teflon scratchable?


I've worn out the teflon on so many skillets and always wonder if they couldn't be saved by applying another coat of teflon. Anybody know if it's possible? --e.bennett


Some studies have been conducted that show teflon to be potentially dangerous to your health.... I think the studies are pretty reputable which makes me wonder why so many people don't know about teflon's dangers.... While teflon may be enticing because it's so much easier to clean...if there are real health risks, it might not be worth it! There are some articles on this site that talk about teflon's potential dangers. You might want to check them out.

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    • A cooking pan coated in Teflon®.
      By: maxximmm
      A cooking pan coated in Teflon®.
    • The bottom of an iron with a Teflon® coating.
      By: alekc79
      The bottom of an iron with a Teflon® coating.