First of all, it may be prudent to explain exactly what Teflon is. Teflon, is the registered trademark of a synthetic chemical known as polytetrafluorothylene (PTFE), and has been in commercial use since the 1940s.
As far as synthetic chemicals go, Teflon is an extremely resilient, almost frictionless, non-stick surface that is not only used within the cook-wear industry, but the fabric protector industry too. It is also a chemical that does not react to other chemicals which may come into contact with it.
Perfluorooctanoic acid ([PFOA] also known as C8), is another synthetic chemical that is used in the manufacturing process of Teflon. And although during the manufacturing process much of this chemical is actually burned off, still an insignificant (?) amount is actually left within the final product.
The problem is, this small insignificant amount of PFOA that does not get burned away in the manufacturing process, may actually still hold some type of health risk to its user, as PFOA does have the potential to be of a health concern.
Over the years, certain myths have been put in place actually touting Teflon as being a major health hazard, something that may actually cause cancer and other health related problems.
Studies show that PFOA can stay not just in the environment for long periods of time, but also in the human body, and although it is actually quite commonly found in the blood of most Americans albeit in low-levels, these levels do tend to increase significantly where drinking water has been contaminated by it.
So what does this actually all mean?
Well, when for example a Teflon coated pan is heated to 500 degrees of more, the small amount of PFOA that is still in the surface coating gets released into the air via smoke and gasses, and then inhaled. Although, to reach a degree of 500 or more would usually mean the pan got forgotten, and left on the hot plate to overheat.
If most Americans have a low-level of PFOA in their blood, is it harmful?
This depends, as lab studies on animals have found that exposure to PFOA does actually increase the risk of tumors of the liver, mammary glands, pancreas, and testicles. Although, there is still no certainty as to how PFOA actually causes these tumors, and if it would actually react in the same way in the human body.
However, studies that have taken place on humans only show that where over exposure to the chemical (usually with workers who are in daily contact with the chemical and where levels can be found to be as high as several thousand times more than normal) has occurred, a higher risk of bladder, kidney, and testicular cancer has been found.
So where does this leave the average household user of Teflon?
It would probably be wise to say, that in normal use, Teflon is quite safe to use, and the risks of developing cancer through its use would be quite remote. However, this being said and done, careless use of the product would almost certainly raise a degree of concern as to the possibility of this remoteness becoming a certain danger.
As with most products, when used with a certain degree of diligence, and in accordance with the manufactures recommendations, they are usually quite safe to use.