by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
November 18, 2003
THE TEFLON-COATED SLIPPERY SLOPE
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- We now know going from the frying pan into the fire is a viable threat - assuming your frying pan is Teflon-coated. Last week news camw that the presence of a complex polymer in Teflon that can be absorbed into our systems through food prepared in Teflon coated pots, pans, and baking tins.
This is all too much for my mind to take in; perhaps my brain itself has become Teflon-coated, everything is just rolling off, along with my concerns over fats, transfats, oils and preservatives. The preservatives extend shelf life but shorten mine.
This morning I went from preparing what I call "soul food" - leftover mashed potatoes in a pan of melting butter, a hole no bigger than a silver dollar in the center, with an egg cracked smack in the middle. "Toad in a hole," is its apt name and it sizzled just enough to make my mouth water.
Understand, I never eat butter, salted mashed potatoes, a whole egg, or buttered toast. But, for a special dinner recently for guests who have not yet converted to "safe" products, I stocked up. Those are things of my past, before high blood pressure (easy on the salt) and cholesterol (no more butter or whole eggs) brought me to the stage of really hearing the doctor advising me to "do as I say and you'll live forever."
Granted, this morning I was cheating, but I don't do it often and "I promise never to do it again" - that's my mantra every month or so. I took the dinner plate to the frying pan and slid my breakfast onto it. It slid, leaving no scrapings whatsoever in the pan. Now, that alone, is worth a round of applause. But... the report... .
The sizzle was gone and, in the short time it took to put the frying pan into the sink, I lost my appetite. Having just heard about the dangers of Teflon, I couldn't eat. Whom can you trust?
In a report by Kelly Greaser, an environmental scientist who deals with chemicals and their dangers everyday, I learned about Teflon. "Teflon is PolyTetraFluoroEthylene (PTFE), a large, complex organic polymer. When it breaks down, it forms several different types of simpler, smaller, organic chemicals. These chemicals are gases and so travel in the air. The problem with organic chemicals is that they do not break down. That means that once the chemical is formed in your house, it is dangerous until it leaves your house."
Ms. Greaser's report was primarily about the effect of Teflon on birds and offered this anecdote: "I know of a lady that was baking cookies on a non-stick sheet and when she went upstairs she had 8 dead birds." Not a pretty picture.
The effects on humans is being reported now, but the initial results of the study suggest it's easy to prevent - use non-coated pots and pans. I'll opt for glass, myself, not being too sure of aluminum, copper or stainless steel.
The part of the report I fear most is the line "once the chemical is formed in your house, it is dangerous until it leaves your house." Will there be a detector available to us? I remember the Radon gas scare and the mandatory detection and measurement of levels, safe or otherwise, and what had to be done about it. After a brief mention about the report on Teflon this past week, there has been nothing in the news. I checked the New York Times, CNN on line and ABC News.com. Nothing. Has the report been squelched ?
However, there was a report given by Federal regulators Friday saying they might - note, "might" - recommend the use of sealants "to contain the arsenic within a pesticide-treated wood used in playground equipment." There was an 18-month study and the researchers are finding some success in sealing off this pesticide, "chromated copper arsenate" which is used in just about all of the wooden-based playgrounds, so said Mr. Jim Jones, director of the Environment Protection Agency's office of pesticide programs.
Jones' agency reported a "marginally increased risk of cancer" in the children aged from one to six years exposed to the pesticide at their playgrounds.
I'm pacing back and forth as I ponder why they would go on treating wood with the anti-pesticides so dangerous to our little ones' health, when they could design playgrounds out of steel, fiberglass or non-polymer plastic. I pace as I ponder because I don't dare lie down on the couch to give this subject serious thought: the couch has been treated with a stain-resisting coating and, you guessed it, the coating has been found to be absorbed through human skin.
There's a commercial so adorable you'll actually say, "Ahhhhhhh." A dad can't get his crying baby settled and when the phone rings he places the infant on the brand new carpet, treated against stains and soft as a pillow. When the dad turns back, the baby is asleep, face down, content to press his rosy cheek against the fiber. Again, "Ahhhhhhh."
That all-American infant is already on a slippery slope, sliding as easily as an egg from a teflon pan, from one health hazard to another. And, we face these whichever way we turn. For example, in case of fire, floor or electrical outage, we might be told to boil our water before we drink it or use it for cooking and bathing. I, quite naturally, would choose my large, teflon coated, pot - the one that would never have things clinging to its sides to contaminate the water. Oy veh! What's a woman to do?