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Last updated on October 10th, 2018
Many of you have asked me about the safety of GreenPan non-stick cookware, so I looked into it. One of my blog readers emailed me a GreenPan non-stick cookware test report that she had received from GreenPan, and I contacted them with more questions.
Before we talk about the safety of GreenPan non-stick cookware, let’s talk about why “conventional” non-stick is not good for you. Non-stick cookware is coated with PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) sold under the brand name of Teflon.
While PTFE is not known to cause cancer, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8, is used to make the PTFE coating, and it is considered a carcinogen. The problem with PFOA coating is that while you cook, toxic fumes are released 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 a major environmental pollutant. Even if you have stopped using non-stick pans a while ago, most likely you have PFOA in your blood, which may lead to cancer, reduced infertility, and thyroid disorders, to name a few. Unfortunately, by now, we all get exposed to background levels of PFOA as a result of their manufacture and the disposal of products that contain them. (To read more about PFOA, visit here.)
By the way, when you see non-stick cookware that is advertised as PFOA-free, it is important to ask if the coating is PTFE and, if it is, be sure to ask them what is used instead of PFOA. For example, PFAS can be used instead. 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 is not made with the PTFE coating. It is a different technology marketed under the brand name of Thermolon. GreenPan describes it as ceramic, which can include a variety of substances. So I asked about the composition of the ceramic coating. GreenPan’s answer was:
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).
Here it is important to note the difference between silicon and silicone. Silicon (without “e” at the end) is an element found in silica, i.e., sand, one of the most common materials on earth. However, to make silicone (note the “e” at the end), silicon is extracted from silica and passed through hydrocarbons (organic compounds occurring in petroleum, natural gas, and coal) to create silicone. Because of hydrocarbons, silicone is not as natural and safe. Thus, it is good news that the coating of GreenPan is made of silicon – not silicone.
However, we still do not know the full composition of Thermolon and this is where a test report becomes helpful.
First of all, I would like to praise GreenPan for disclosing their test report. In my experience as a full-time consumer product researcher for the last 5 years, it does not happen often. Many companies want to keep their test results secret, and so I commend GreenPan for its transparency – something we all want to encourage! You can access the report here.
After I had looked at the report, I had some questions, which GreenPan answered to my satisfaction. I am copying and pasting them here for you to read for yourself.
- What is SGS?
SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance) is a 3rd party lab with head office in Switzerland with branches worldwide that provides services in areas such as quality inspection and testing of consumer products 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. SGS will issue an independent, unbiased [sic] report as to whether the products comply or not.
- Are your products made in South Korea or the Thermolon coating only?
Indeed, the Thermolon coating is made in South Korea. The products are manufactured in our own factory in China, which means that we control the quality and the standards to which our products are made.
- What agency performs the testing?
We use various test labs such as SGS, Intertek and TUV.
- 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.
- Could you please tell 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 used in Thermolon are 100% safe for use in food contact coatings.
- Which metal is used beneath Thermolon?
It depends on what range of cookware you chose to buy. GreenPan 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 come off eventually with use? How often do you recommend replacing your cookware?
Thermolon does not come off during normal use. However, if abused (e.g. impact or wrong use of utensils), then any coating can become scratched or even come off in small areas. 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 then it would be advisable to replace the pan on a better safe than sorry basis.
- How do your tests compare with the CA Prop. 65 test?
Our products fully comply with the requirements of Prop 65. For example, Lead and Cadmium are undetected.
My Thoughts about the GreenPan Non-Stick Cookware
The test report reflects that a wide range of chemicals have been tested and, with the exception of only one (aluminum), they 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.
As for the aluminum, I am not very concerned 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, unlike lead or cadmium, larger amounts have to accumulate in your body to make you sick.
The test setup looks reasonable to me. I like the fact that tests were performed 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 is performed to know 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 a year.
And lastly, let me speak 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 non-stick cookware report.
Please let us know in the comments what you think about GreenPan non-stick cookware.
Where to buy
Amazon carries a variety of GreenPan non-toxic cookware pieces and sets. Here are some examples:
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