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The PristinePlanet.com Newsletter
10 May 2006 — Issue #19
Editor: Michael J. Ross
Editor's Message

In this month's issue, our environmental news article concerns the toxicity of Teflon and chemicals used in its manufacture — problems that have been known for decades, but are only now being fully reported and discussed, and reaching the consumer. To find more safe and ecologically responsible cookware, check out the cast iron and soapstone options offered by Greenfeet.com, and read their perspective on healthy cookware.

Environmental News

Teflon's Dangers

Humans can be quite clever, albeit oftentimes to our detriment. Such may be the case with the widespread use of polymer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), better known to most people by its brand name, Teflon. PTFE was discovered accidentally by chemist Roy J. Plunkett (19101994) of DuPont, in 1938, while trying to create a new CFC refrigerant. It turned out that the waxy white substance has the lowest coefficient of friction of any known solid, and thus DuPont began exploring its commercial possibilities as a coating. DuPont patented it in 1941, registered the Teflon trademark in 1944, and began selling it in 1946. By 1950, DuPont was annually producing over one million tons of PTFE.

Much of the Teflon that has been created since its introduction, has ended up being used for nonstick pans and other cookware, which regularly come into contact at high temperatures with foods that we eat. Consequently, we must ask ourselves, just exactly how safe is Teflon? What happens to the fragments of Teflon — visible or otherwise — that inevitably chip off when cooking utensils and other items strike the surfaces of Teflon-coated pans? Many people assume that the practically friction-free material must pass harmlessly right through their bodies.

Initially, consumers were assured that Teflon is chemically inert and non-toxic, and therefore completely safe. But the tough questions should have been asked decades ago, given that Teflon is not chemically bonded to any cookware surface (in fact, it cannot chemically bond to anything). To get Teflon to stick, the target surface is roughened via sandblasting, covered with a primer, and then covered with Teflon, which gets stuck in microscopic interstices. Wouldn't repeated use at high temperatures cause portions of that Teflon to be continually released, into the food, and in turn into us?

That turns out to be the case. It was later discovered that, at temperatures above 500F (260C), Teflon begins to decompose. The resultant gases are known to produce hallucinations and flu-like symptoms for humans, and death for indoor birds. The number of people possibly affected by Teflon, must be enormous, given that over 70% of the cookware purchased in the United States has a nonstick coating.

PTFE is not the only potentially hazardous chemical involved in the manufacture of Teflon. For instance, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a.k.a. C-8, is used to make Teflon, although it is not a component of Teflon. However, uncured cookware can have traces of PFOA. In February 2006, a group of independent scientific advisers to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voted unanimously that the EPA should classify PFOA as a likely carcinogen. DuPont responded by taking out full-page ads in major U.S. publications, assuring the public that Teflon is safe. Research has shown that PFOA is now found in the blood of most Americans. In fact, one study indicated that 96 percent of the children tested in 23 U.S. states, had traces of PFOA.

This is not the first time that PFOA has been in the news. In May 2005, a federal grand jury subpoenaed DuPont for documents, as requested by the U.S. Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section. Only a month prior, DuPont had agreed to a settlement with the EPA, admitting that it neglected to report health safety information about PFOA for 20 years. In Teflon's defense, it should be noted that the major sources of PFOA are chemicals for stain- and water-resistance in clothing, carpets, and take-out food boxes. (More good reasons to prepare your own food, wearing clothing made of natural fibers.)

Yet even after any residual PFOA has disappeared from nonstick cookware, the Teflon poses a danger to humans and animals — roughly proportional to the cooking temperatures. The pet birds that have died from Teflon are reminiscent of the canaries formerly used in coal mines to warn miners of lethal gases, which would kill the canary first. Before that happens to you or your household members, consider replacing any Teflon-coated cookware with healthier alternatives, such as stainless steel, cast iron, silicon, or glass.

Member Profiles

Kushtush Organics

People who are discovering the benefits of organic clothing and bedding, should also discover Kushtush Organics, which features an extensive selection of bedding for humans and pets, apparel, bath products and fabric in bulk. They even have Amish furniture and bedding products — something you won't find at Wal-Mart. Kushtush Organics' offerings are made of natural wool fill, organic cottons, hemp, and natural latex. The cotton is non-genetically modified, and the wool comes from organically raised sheep — not from a chemical-laden factory. Kushtush Organics was started in 2004, by Susan Fullen-Yurek, a single mom who for three years converted a one-quarter-acre home site into a wooded natural habitat for local wildlife, using native plants and organic landscaping techniques. This got her thinking about the health of our indoor habitats, and how people could reduce their exposure to toxins found in all parts of the house, particularly the clothing and bedding in which we spend so much time. This attention to healthy living is reflected in the products chosen by Susan, as well as the positive way in which the company treats its customers, based upon Susan's prior experience of more than a decade as a customer care professional. This approach extends to a genuine concern for American farmers and workers, because Kushtush Organics only carries products made in the USA by farms that are committed to ecological stewardship, humane business practices, and fair trade.

Solar Power Generation

As the prices of oil, gasoline, and natural gas increase, there is growing interest in the United States for alternative and sustainable energy sources, including solar power. Two states in the union that get plenty of sunshine are Florida and Texas, which are also home to Solar Power Generation, Inc., and Solar Power Generation, LLC, respectively. Combined together, Solar Power Generation provides a wide range of solar and other alternative energy products, services, news, and education for anyone interested in learning more about how solar power can be integrated into their homes and businesses. The company has developed in stages, beginning in December of 2002, when they debuted their Web site. Approximately one year later, they opened their eBay store. More recently, they opened their Amazon.com store. With a degree in electrical engineering, Cathy wanted to apply her technical knowledge towards benefiting the planet through renewable energy — the success of which would allow her to do further research and development of alternative energy. Realizing that many potential customers may consider solar power to be expensive, if not just unconventional, Cathy makes every effort to offer the company's products at a discount. This makes the items affordable to more people, which better helps them, as well as the planet. Be sure to check out Solar Power Generation's Web site, which has educational articles and links to related resources, in addition to a terrific variety of solar kits, batteries, battery chargers, water heaters, and — for those days when the sun is unavailable — wind generators!

New and Renewing Members

Everyone here at PristinePlanet.com would like to extend a warm welcome (or welcome back) to the following valued members:

PristinePlanet.com News

Newsletter Contest

The results of our first newsletter subscriber contest are in! Diane, who resides in Franklintown, Pennsylvania, is the winner of a $50.00 gift certificate to Peaceful Valley Greetings. PristinePlanet.com appreciates everyone's participation, and especially the contribution from Peaceful Valley Greetings. Congratulations, Diane!

Two Press Releases

Since our last issue, PristinePlanet.com has issued two online press releases, announcing the newsletter gift certificate contest, as well as the recent improvements to the Web site.

Archived Newsletters

All material copyright © 2004 PristinePlanet.com™, except for Environmental News articles copyright © 2004 Michael J. Ross. All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter can be copied without express written permission from its copyright holder.

Letters and guest articles posted in the Newsletter section of the Forum or sent to the publisher become the property of PristinePlanet.com, and may be edited for brevity or clarity prior to publication.

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