Do you use non-stick pots and pans? Most of us will agree that non-stick cookware has made cooking easier. When Teflon became popular where I lived, people eagerly replaced their regular cast iron and stainless-steel cookware with Teflon cookware. At that time, we would take only convenience into consideration, and hardly anyone thought about safety. Now, so many years later, I have a different point of view – safety comes first. One of the many companies that claim to produce safe non-stick cookware, a better alternative to Teflon, is GreenPan. Namely, GreenPan makes a variety of non-stick pots and pans described by the company as healthy ceramic non-stick cookware. Let’s look into the safety of GreenPan non-stick cookware and see a new development in the GreenPan lawsuit. You will also find out how to use this non-stick pan without damaging the non-stick coating.
In this post:
- Consumer goods research is my full-time occupation.
- Conventional non-stick coating is Teflon.
- Beware of PFAS in cookware coating.
- GreenPan non-stick cookware uses Thermolon coating instead of Teflon.
- Thermolon coating has silicon as one of its ingredients.
- GreenPan discloses their ceramic non-stick cookware test reports.
- Check out my opinion about the available test results for grey original coating and diamond coating.
- I believe full lists of ingredients are necessary to gauge safety.
- Look into GreenPan non-stick cookware performance reviews.
- Use stainless steel and cast iron for safe and easy cooking.
- A lawsuit against GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware maker claimed false advertising.
- See why the case was most likely dismissed.
- Conclusion about the safety of GreenPan non-stick cookware
Consumer goods research is my full-time occupation.
Many of you have asked me about GreenPan, so I took time to look into it. If this is your first time on my blog, let me tell you where I am coming from.
Until well into my thirties, I had had no idea about toxins, chemicals, contaminants, pollutants, etc. When my mom got upset about me dying my hair, I just thought her attitude was outdated. (Little did I know that I would write a Permanent Hair Color e-book years later!) I would give anything now to be able to tell her that she was right.
After a hit-and-run accident, I had to reconsider every aspect of my life. On top of that, I was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases but have recovered from one of them already. (Find out the details of my journey to health in my posts about breast implants and explant surgery.)
When I was expecting my son, I started researching the field of baby care products. Surprised to see long chemical names on baby body products, I was determined to find safe ones for my child. That gave me an idea to share my findings with other parents, and that was how my blog was born.
Nowadays, I research consumer goods full-time, and I love it. As you can imagine, though, it is time-consuming and requires devotion and a fondness for reading and studying scientific literature. (See the steps I take and sources I use in my research on my Start here page.)
Conventional non-stick coating is Teflon.
Before we talk about the safety of ceramic non-stick cookware, particularly GreenPan non-stick cookware, let’s discuss “conventional” non-stick cookware.
To begin with, most non-stick cookware has a polytetrafluoroethylene coating (PTFE) that companies market under the brand name of Teflon.
While PTFE is not known to cause cancer, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), aka C8, which is commonly used to make PTFE coating, is considered a carcinogen. It may also reduce fertility and lead to thyroid disorders (source). During cooking, PFOA releases toxic fumes and may cause inhabitants of the home (especially, babies, kids, and pets) to feel flu-like symptoms.
Beware of PFAS in cookware coating.
Unfortunately, “PFOA-free” does not automatically mean “safe.” Indeed, there are many other polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that can be used instead of PFOA. Namely, they include:
- perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)
- perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS), and
- GenX chemicals.
According to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, more research is needed, but PFAS may:
- affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
- interfere with the body’s natural hormones
- lower chances of getting pregnant
- increase cholesterol levels
- affect the immune system, and
- increase the risk of cancer.
(Stay with me to see if there are any PFAS in ceramic non-stick cookware, particularly GreenPan non-stick cookware.)
Sadly, PFAS are nonbiodegradable. They also build up in our bodies and only slowly reduce over time once exposure stops. As a result of their manufacture and the disposal of PFAS containing products, PFAS are commonly found in water. (Read my Best Water Filter System post to learn how to check your water for PFAS. Also, see what happened when independent scientists tested Berkey for handling PFAS.)
On October 5, 2021, California signed into law the Safer Food Packaging and Cookware Act. The bill was cosponsored by Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP). With the passage of this law, California has become the 6th state since 2018 to ban toxic PFAS “forever” chemicals in paper-based food packaging. Manufacturers must disclose PFAS in cookware or bakeware sold in California online by January 2023 and on the packaging by January 2024.
Bottom line, I recommend avoiding PTFE coating altogether.
GreenPan non-stick cookware uses Thermolon coating instead of Teflon.
The good news is that GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware has no PTFE coating. Instead, they use a technology under the brand name of Thermolon. Below are some questions and answers from my correspondence with GreenPan regarding their cookware coating and material.
What are the Thermolon coating ingredients?
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). 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 underneath the Thermolon coating?
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.
Do you make all 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 we control the quality and the standards of product manufacturing.
Thermolon coating has silicon as one of its ingredients.
Based on the answers above, Thermolon coating has silicon as the main ingredient.
Silicon is a product of silica (sand), one of the most common materials on earth. They also use silica to make silicone (with “e”) by extracting silicon (without “e”) and passing it through hydrocarbons.
To clarify, hydrocarbons are organic compounds occurring in petroleum, natural gas, and coal. Because of them, silicone is not completely natural and safe. Therefore, it is great that GreenPan non-stick cookware coating has silicon – not silicone– as the main ingredient.
However, we still do not know the full composition of Thermolon, so we turn to test reports for help.
There are quite a few brands that make ceramic non-stick cookware now, such as:
- Green Earth
- Zwilling, and
- Blue Diamond.
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 and test reports. You can also sign up here to learn how they responded to my questions.
GreenPan discloses their ceramic non-stick cookware test reports.
First off, please know that there are two types of coating that GreenPan cookware has: grey original and black diamond. You can see the test report for the grey original coating here and for the diamond coating here.
Both test reports reflect a wide range of chemicals tested and found undetectable (except aluminum in one of the grey original coating reports). “Undetectable” means they are under the reporting limit. In my opinion, the reporting limits used in these tests are small enough to be reassuring.
Here is my correspondence with GreenPan regarding their test reports.
What agency performs the testing of GreenPan products?
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, for example, SGS.
How do your tests compare with the CA Proposition 65 test?
Our products fully comply with the requirements of Prop 65. For example, the test does not detect lead and cadmium.
In my experience, many companies want to keep their test results a secret. That is why I applaud GreenPan for disclosing their ceramic non-stick cookware test reports – something we all want to encourage!
Now, let us discuss the specifics of the GreenPan non-stick cookware test reports.
Check out my opinion about the available test results for grey original coating and diamond coating.
|Aluminum||– The detected level is 0.27 ppm in the grey original coating.|
– This measure is under the safety level of 0.6 ppm in drinking water (EWG).
– I do not find the detected amount of aluminum in GreenPan cookware concerning.
|Heavy metals||– The tests detected extractable amounts (potentially capable of leaching into food) of heavy metals versus total amounts. |
– 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 amount of heavy metals would be helpful to know if the coating came off and was ingested.
|Lead||– The detectable reporting limit is 0.01 mg/kg (0.01 ppm).|
– The recommended limit is 0.02 ppm.
– California Proposition 65 (which is stricter than the FDA) requires lead to be under 0.1 ppm before it triggers a warning label.
– The resulting level of lead in GreenPan non-stick cookware is non-detectable.
|Cadmium||– The detectable reporting limit is 0.002 mg/kg (0.002 ppm).|
– The recommended limit is 0.002 ppm.
– California Proposition 65 requires cadmium to be under 0.049 ppm.
– The resulting level of cadmium in GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware is not detectable.
I believe full lists of ingredients are necessary to gauge safety.
While I have no problem with the detected levels in the available test reports, I do not know how comprehensive the tests are. Without a full list of the Thermolon coating ingredients, it is unclear for what substances we need to see test reports.
For example, in the report for grey original coating, they tested for PFOA only. In the black diamond coating report, they tested for PFOA, PFOS, and fluorine. It is significant that they tested for fluorine because all PFAS share a fluorine molecule. Thus, the absence of a detectable level of fluorine indicates the absence of all PFAS. However, I still believe that it is important to know a full list of ingredients.
Look into GreenPan non-stick cookware performance reviews.
Since I have not used GreenPan cookware myself, I cannot speak from own experience. However, the San Diego Consumer Network reports that within a few months of use, the cookware starts having food-sticking issues. According to my blog readers, the Thermolon non-stick coating dissipates, and the cookware stops acting as non-stick at some point. (See the comments below.)
To be fair, the way and frequency of use might matter, too. Check out my correspondence with GreenPan regarding their cookware performance.
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.
Normally, I avoid replacing cookware because it is not good for the environment. So please be sure to follow the maintenance instructions to provide a long life for your cookware. Thus, the company’s website does not recommend spraying oils on their non-stick pans but does not mind putting them in the dishwasher.
Use stainless steel and cast iron for safe and easy cooking.
Personally, I would not use conventional Teflon coated cookware because of potentially harmful contaminants. Neither would I use GreenPan non-stick cookware because of undisclosed ingredients used in its Thermolon coating. For a comprehensive picture of existing cookware and safer options, please refer to my Safe Cookware guide.
In a nutshell, I prefer stainless-steel and cast-iron pots and pans. When used properly, they can act just as ceramic non-stick cookware. Indeed, stainless steel is the top choice of professional chefs.
For instance, we use such non-toxic stainless-steel cookware as Homi Chef and All-Clad. I can make fried or scrambled eggs slide off my stainless steel All-Clad skillet. The secret is to heat the skillet sufficiently before putting oil on it and then heat the oil before adding eggs.
As for cast iron, it is important to keep it seasoned because that is what makes it non-stick. And the best oil to use for seasoning is a high smoke point oil (I use avocado oil).
I really like Stargazer and Field Company that produce safe non-stick skillets in the USA. Thus, Stargazer seasons their cookware with a blend of grapeseed, canola, and sunflower oils. And Field uses grapeseed oil.
Stargazer and Field skillets have smooth surfaces, not textured, which helps achieve a non-stick effect. Some other brands’ cast iron cookware has textured surfaces, which makes it harder to achieve a truly non-stick surface.
There is another reason I would not use GreenPan non-stick cookware, and it has to do with the law.
A lawsuit against GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware maker claimed false advertising.
In September 2019, three law firms filed a class action lawsuit entitled Anna Saldivar v. The Cookware Company LLC (Case No. 5:19-cv-06014). (To learn what filing a class action lawsuit means, please read my husband’s description here.)
According to the class action, GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware contains several known toxins even though the company advertises its pans as “completely toxin free.” Specifically, the patent for Thermolon listed silane, aluminum oxide, tetraethoxysilane, methyltrimethoxysilane, and potassium titanate. Above all, the plaintiff says that these substances are known to cause health problems.
Doing a follow-up on the case, I came across this document (filed on December 15, 2020) on the Internet:
My husband, who is an attorney, reviewed the document, and reported as follows.
See why the case was most likely dismissed.
The document does not say much about what happened in the case. However, reading between the lines, this is the most likely scenario.
A plaintiff filed a lawsuit against GreenPan non-stick cookware maker as what is called a putative class action. This means that the plaintiff filed suit not only for themselves, but also on behalf of all others similarly situated. I can’t tell from this document whether a class was ever certified by the court, or how the class was defined. (An example might be, “All persons who purchased GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019, who reside in California.”)
What is clear from the stipulated order is that the plaintiff and GreenPan agreed that the case should be dismissed. Importantly, the case was dismissed “with prejudice” as to the plaintiff, meaning that the named plaintiff (Anna Saldivar) cannot re-file the case. “Without prejudice” refers to any other person who might be a member of the class. It means that they could file their own case, even though Anna Saldivar’s case is being dismissed.
This tells me it is most likely that GreenPan settled with Ms. Saldivar by paying a certain sum of money. There is a chance the parties agreed that the plaintiff would dismiss the case with prejudice for other reasons, such as that the case lacked merit, but the odds of this are smaller. Of course, these are just my opinions based on a review of one document in the case.
Conclusion about the safety of GreenPan non-stick cookware
In conclusion, there is no way for me to form an opinion as to whether GreenPan’s ceramic non-stick coating is significantly safer than Teflon. First, the company would not disclose the full list of their coating ingredients. Second, the patent for Thermolon reveals the use of potentially toxic chemicals used in the coating.
Further, I did research into the existing concern that quasi-ceramic non-stick cookware may leach titanium dioxide nanoparticles into food. Turns out, the tests were performed on new and used non-stick cookware with Slovenian quasi-ceramic coating (source). Since I could not access the full article, I do not have enough information to form an opinion. I do not even know whether GreenPan ceramic non-stick cookware would be categorized as quasi-ceramic cookware. This concern may be more applicable to ScanPan that makes cookware with a ceramic titanium surface.
I also recommend reducing exposure to toxic PFAS in other areas of life such as drinking water and makeup. Test your drinking water and opt for an effective water filter and consider trying non-toxic makeup.
You are welcome to contact me for a private consultation and join my Savvy Consumer Circle to learn and have fun with like-minded people. And, of course, remember to check out my e-books that contain truly valuable and unique information for the mindful consumer.