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Some Teflon manufacturers have announced that they will be phasing out non-stick coatings on pans and other cookware by 2015 or earlier, reports Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss of E-The Environmental Magazine. The decision was made after these manufacturers received reports of serious health effects that resulted from exposing Teflon to high heat. High heat exposure releases a constituent chemical known as PFOA in gas form.

However, take note that only Teflon derived from perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) will be phased out. It’s unlikely to affect the other Teflon—virgin polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE). Chemist Roy Plunkett first discovered PTFE in 1938, and it currently holds the Guinness World Record for slickest substance. Companies that are looking for manufacturers of quality polymer seals and bearings that are non-hazardous should contact manufacturers like Advanced EMC Technologies.

At 0.02, PTFE has the lowest coefficient of static and dynamic friction for a solid. It has seen various uses aside from non-stick frying pans and casseroles, and has even been applied in aerodynamics. Consumers and businesses that are worried about the health hazards of PFOA would be glad to know that many manufacturers, such as Advanced EMC Technologies, are producing seals, bearings, and precision components using efficient but non-hazardous materials.

While there’s no direct evidence linking exposure to PFOA to health problems, workers in factories that produce PFOA products are at risk of developing pancreatic and testicular cancer. As initial tests have shown that PFOA is lethal to birds, some are quick to assume that it may pose the same threat to humans. The fumes emitted by non-stick pans during cooking may contain the carcinogenic PFOA, which has been found to increase estrogen levels and deregulate testosterone functions.

In a letter to former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson, a well-known Teflon manufacturer discussed its goal of totally eliminating PFOA by 2015 or earlier. Alternatives being researched assure the EPA and the public that future products containing PTFE (no longer called Teflon) won’t break down or contain any PFOA. By using polymers that do not emit hazardous substances, public health and safety is reinforced.

Virgin PTFE is already available in the market, primarily for making industrial-grade virgin PTFE rotary shaft seals. Reinforced seals can resist temperatures between 60 below zero to 520 degrees Fahrenheit. These seals are primarily used to handle hazardous materials, as they won’t degrade so easily upon chemical and nuclear exposure. Virgin PTFE may not be as slick as the original Teflon (static and dynamic coefficient of 0.09 and 0.05 respectively), but it doesn’t need to be.

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