Many of you have asked me about the safety of GreenPan non-stick cookware, so I looked into it. GreenPan is one of many companies that claim to produce safe non-stick cookware, a better alternative to Teflon. Just as many other companies, GreenPan makes a variety of non-stick cookware described as ceramic non-stick cookware. Read to the end to discover a new development regarding GreenPan that involves a lawsuit.
What is so bad about Teflon?
Before we talk about the safety of GreenPan non-stick cookware, let’s discuss why “conventional” non-stick cookware is not good for you. Most non-stick cookware has a PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) coating marketed under the brand name of Teflon.
While PTFE is not known to cause cancer, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), aka C8, which is used to make PTFE coating, is considered a carcinogen.
Perfluorooctanoic acid in non-stick cookware coating
The problem with PFOA coating is that during cooking, it releases toxic fumes into your home and may cause people to feel flu-like symptoms. Babies, kids, and pets are the most vulnerable to the fumes.
PFOA is also a major environmental pollutant. Even if you stopped using non-stick pans a while ago, most likely you have PFOA in your blood, which may lead to cancer, reduced fertility, and thyroid disorders, to name a few. Unfortunately, by now, we all have exposure to background levels of PFOA as a result of its manufacture and the disposal of products that contain it. (To read more about PFOA, visit here.)
By the way, when you see advertisements of non-stick cookware as PFOA-free, you cannot just assume that it is safe. I believe it is important to ask if the coating is PTFE. If it is, be sure to inquire what they used instead of PFOA. For example, one of the replacements can be PFOS. In my experience as a full-time consumer product researcher, substitutes are often as bad or even worse. I recommend avoiding PTFE coating altogether.
GreenPan non-stick cookware as an alternative to Teflon
This ceramic non-stick cookware does not have PTFE coating. GreenPan uses a different technology under the brand name of Thermolon. I emailed GreenPan to find out the composition of their ceramic coating. Here is what they replied:
The Thermolon coating is made by a Sol-Gel process that results in forming a coating layer on the surface of the pan. This layer comprises mainly Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), which is the same composition as glass (or sand from which glass is made).
The difference between silicon and silicone
It is important to note that silicon (without an “e” at the end) is an element of silica, i.e., sand, one of the most common materials on earth. However, to make silicone (with an “e” at the end), they extract silicon from silica and pass it through hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are organic compounds occurring in petroleum, natural gas, and coal, and because of them, silicone is not completely natural and safe.
Thus, it is good news that the coating of GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware has silicon – not silicone – as the main ingredient. However, we still don’t know the full composition of Thermolon, and this is where we turn to test reports for help.
GreenPan test reports
First of all, I would like to praise GreenPan for disclosing their test reports. In my experience, it does not happen often. Many companies want to keep their test results a secret. So, I commend GreenPan for its transparency – something we all want to encourage!
After looking at the reports, I had some questions, which GreenPan answered to my satisfaction. I am copying and pasting them here for you to read for yourself:
What agency performs the testing of your ceramic non-stick cookware?
We use various test labs such as SGS, Intertek and TUV.
What is SGS ?
SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance) is a 3rd party lab with head office in Switzerland and branches worldwide. It provides services in areas such as quality inspection and testing of consumer products. SGS tests them for safety and fitness for use according to various international test standards and regulations that prevail in the countries where the goods are to be sold. The lab will issue an independent, unbiased [sic] report as to whether the products comply.
How often do you perform the tests?
We follow best practice, which is for testing to confirm compliance with food contact regulations be done annually by an independent lab such as, for example, SGS.
How do your tests compare with the CA Prop. 65 test?
Our products fully comply with the requirements of Prop 65. For example, the test does not detect lead and cadmium.
Do you make all the GreenPan products in South Korea or the Thermolon coating only?
Indeed, South Korea is the place where we make the Thermolon coating for our cookware. As for our ceramic non-stick cookware products, we manufacture them in our own factory in China. It means that we control the quality and the standards of product manufacturing.
Could you please tell me the ingredients for the Thermolon coating?
The Thermolon coating is made by a Sol-Gel process that results in forming a coating layer on the surface of the pan. This layer comprises mainly Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), which is the same composition as glass (or sand from which glass is made). There are some additional materials such as pigments that give the color. All the materials in Thermolon are 100% safe for use in food contact coatings.
Which metal do you use beneath the Thermolon coating of your ceramic non-stick cookware?
It depends on what range of cookware you chose to buy. GreenPan non-stick cookware has ranges where the metals are either aluminum, hard anodized aluminum or stainless steel. The coating above the metal provides a complete barrier against migration of the metal (or any other materials) into the food. Therefore, there are no safety considerations as to the choice of metal of the cookware. It simply comes down to personal preferences and cooking habits.
Does the Thermolon coating eventually come off with use?
Thermolon does not come off during normal use. However, if abused (e.g. impact or wrong use of utensils), any coating can become scratched or even come off in small areas.
How often do you recommend replacing your ceramic non-stick cookware?
Provided that the coating is intact (i.e. not exposing the metal), there is no reason to replace the cookware. Minor scratches are not a problem because the area of exposed metal is either extremely small or may not be exposed at all. However, if there are multiple or deep scratches, it would be advisable to replace the pan on a better-safe-than-sorry basis.
My thoughts about the GreenPan non-stick cookware tests
Both test reports reflect that a wide range of chemicals have been tested. And with the exception of aluminum in one of the reports, those chemicals are undetectable. “Undetectable” means that they are under the reporting limit. In my opinion, the reporting limits used in these tests are small enough to be reassuring.
Aluminum in GreenPan cookware
As for the aluminum, I have no concerns about it because it is still under a true safety level of 0.6 ppm in drinking water as reported by the Environmental Working Group. It is only 0.27 ppm. While aluminum is toxic, larger amounts must accumulate in your body to make you sick (unlike lead or cadmium).
Heavy metals in GreenPan non-stick cookware
The test setup looks reasonable to me. I like the fact that they performed tests to detect extractable amounts of heavy metals versus total amounts. Total amounts are measured with an XRF tool to know how much heavy metals are present. The extractable test reveals how much will potentially leach into food. In this case, the test shows how much of heavy metals will leach, if you cook for 2 hours and the food is as acidic as 3% acetic acid.
The total content of heavy metals would be helpful to know if the coating comes off and we ingest it. I have not used GreenPan non-stick cookware so I can’t speak to that. Please let us know in the comments if you have been using GreenPan for at least 6 months.
Lead and cadmium in GreenPan cookware
And lastly, let me say a few words about lead and cadmium as these heavy metals are toxic even in tiny amounts.
The detectable reporting limits for them are 0.01 mg/kg (equivalent to 0.01 ppm) and 0.002 mg/kg (equivalent to 0.002 ppm) respectively. The recommended limits are 0.02 ppm and 0.002 ppm respectively. For your reference, California Proposition 65 (which is stricter than the FDA requirements) requires lead and cadmium to be under 0.1 ppm and 0.049 ppm respectively, which, as you can see, is not as strict as the limits described in the GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware report. We can call it lead-free ceramic cookware.
Potential concerns about GreenPan non-stick cookware
Some bloggers raised concerns that quasi-ceramic non-stick cookware may leach titanium dioxide nanoparticles into food. When I do research, I rely on credible sources of information.
This is what I’ve found.
Researchers performed tests on new and used non-stick cookware with Slovenian quasi-ceramic coating (source). I do not have enough information to form an opinion. For example, although I was able to find an abstract of an article, I was unable to access the full article. Also, I don’t know what brands they used for testing and have no knowledge about the protocols for the tests. Thus, I cannot form an opinion. I do not even know whether GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware would be categorized as quasi-ceramic cookware. Probably not. This concern is probably more applicable to Scanpan, a maker of cookware with a ceramic titanium surface. I encourage you to contact them and ask them for their test reports.
That leads me to the second point. Ultimately, we do not know if the GreenPan test reports are comprehensive. We still do not know the full list of the Thermolon coating components. Because of that, it is unclear what type of substances we need to see test reports for. For example, in the first report, they tested for PFOA. In the second report, they tested for PFOA, PFOS, and fluorine. Should we be asking for tests related to other chemicals that can be found in Teflon coating? And that’s why it is imperative to see other ceramic cookware test reports so we can compare. Please ask.
Conclusion about GreenPan non-stick cookware safety
In conclusion, it seems to me that the ceramic non-stick coating is much safer than Teflon. However, we need more information and tests to be sure if it is truly non-toxic non-stick cookware. Plus, I do not like the fact that we may have to replace this cookware often, which is not a good thing for the environment. Be sure to follow their maintenance instructions to assure a long life.
The performance of GreenPan cookware
I have not used GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware myself so I can’t speak from experience. However, the San Diego Consumer Network reports that within a few months of use food begins to stick. Amazon reviews are mixed and their credibility is ranked as poor on fakespot.com (which is a third-party organization that tries to determine whether certain reviews are genuine or fake).
According to my blog readers, the Thermolon non-stick coating dissipates and the cookware stops acting as non-stick at some point. Please see their comments below. And if you have used GreenPan non-stick cookware for at least 6 months, we would love to hear your honest feedback about its performance in the comments, too. Thank you!
What about other ceramic non-stick cookware?
I believe that there are a number of brands that make ceramic non-stick cookware now. They include GreenLife, Caraway, ScanPan, Green Earth, Zwilling, Blue Diamond, and others. If they call their coating Thermolon, it is probably the same coating as that of GreenPan non-stick cookware. However, you would need to contact them and ask for more information.
Please know that in my experience as a full-time product researcher, I found that when one company starts disclosing test reports, its competitors follow. But it is our job to contact companies and ask questions. I cannot do it alone. Please contact them and ask for test reports.
To learn what cookware I use as a non-stick option, please visit here.
You can also read how this ceramic non-stick cookware compares with other major types of cookware in my Safe Cookware post.
The lawsuit against GreenPan maker
In the light of the recent events, I am adding this updated information regarding GreenPan company.
In September 2019, three law firms filed a class action lawsuit against the maker of GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware. Namely, the class action lawsuit claims that GreenPan uses misleading advertising.
To begin, the case is entitled Anna Saldivar v. The Cookware Company LLC, Case No. 5:19-cv-06014. As of this writing (April 16, 2020), it appears the case is in its opening stages.
Further, the class action lawsuit claims that The Cookware Company advertises its non-stick GreenPans as being “completely toxin free,” when they actually are made with chemicals that are toxins. In addition, Plaintiff Anna Saldivar states that the GreenPan non-stick cookware is falsely advertised as being “healthy ceramic non-stick,” and that they contain “no PFO, PFAS, lead or cadmium.”
However, the lawsuit continues, “GreenPan Products are not, in fact, ‘COMPLETELY TOXIN FREE!’, but contain compounds that are known to be toxic.” To clarify, the Plaintiff bases these claims on the fact that the patent for Thermolon discloses that there are numerous toxic chemicals listed in the patent itself.
According to the GreenPan class action, GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware contains several known toxins. For instance, they include silane, aluminum oxide, tetraethoxysilane, methyltrimethoxysilane, and potassium titanate. Above all, the plaintiff says that these substances are known to cause health problems. If you would like to read more about what filing a class action lawsuit means, you can read my husband’s description here.
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