Titanium cookware safety risk – the debate is just heating up

Questions about titanium cookware safety risks started to rise as titanium was presented more and more as the better alternative for the traditional non-stick cookware.

This particular niche was for a long time dominated by the well-known Teflon coating produced by DuPont, which was first patented in 1941, though it had to wait four more years to be trademarked in 1945, and finally, be introduced in cookware market in 1956.

Marketed as space era technology – which it actually was – Teflon soon gained tremendous popularity. As of 2006, industry estimates place use of non-stick cookware at around 90% of all aluminum cookware sold – which constitutes the bulk of commercial pots and pans.

However, sometime in 2003, a non-profit organization called the Environmental Working Group petitioned the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to put labels on PTFE-coated cookware – this is the technical term for traditional non-stick cookware - to warn of potential safety concerns for both pet birds and humans. This marked the official beginning of the current debate regarding non stick cookware, including the issues of titanium cookware safety.

The petition cited multiple cases of bird deaths due to fumes from PTFE nonstick coatings along with two specific incidents of polymer fume fever in humans. The attempt was unsuccessful as the petition was denied by the authorities.

The producers responded quickly at the allegations of this organization, with DuPont making quite a remarkable commentary by stating that the core argument of the petition regarded bird’s respiratory systems, which are inherently more sensible to fumes, not especially fumes emanating from cookware, which is exactly why it is a good idea to keep birds out of the kitchen.

However, even if the traditional non-stick coating was deemed “safe” by relevant authorities, manufacturers still tried to find even “safer” solution to eliminate any doubt cast on non-stick cookware.

As we established earlier, titanium itself has no intrinsic non – stick properties whatsoever, so the use of the word titanium is purely for marketing purposes. Along with the “indestructible” trait to which titanium is credited usually, the less known “virtually hypoallergenic” and “totally biocompatible” are also nice hypes that add value to a marketing campaign designed for titanium non-stick cookware.

But if you really want to assess titanium cookware safety concerns you’d have to look at the technology beyond the use of the word titanium as a marketing vehicle. There are two technologies right now that are explored as an alternative to traditional PTFE coatings.

Although both of them are based on silicon’s excellent slipperiness, one of them is trying to emulate a ceramic type material by a special mixture of silicon and oxygen, while the other solution is based on silicon only.

Although silicon coatings are PTFE free, and are marketed as being “safer” than their counterparts (Teflon and other similar nonstick coatings), the good usage recommendations are pretty much the same as for traditional non-stick cookware, including careful handling in order to prevent chipping, restricting certain chemical washing solution and refraining for prolonged periods of heat exposure at high temperatures, which leads me to believe that, given the right set of factors, this “safer” solutions could potentially prove to be even more harmful than traditional PTFE cookware.

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