In this guide, we’re focusing on the concerns surrounding PFOA coatings and the formation of Acrylamide in Air Fryers.
Air fryers have become popular for their convenience and health benefits, but their non-stick coatings are often made from Teflon and PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances). These materials raise important health and environmental concerns.
We’ll also explore the issue of Acrylamide, a chemical formed when cooking certain foods at high temperatures.
Read our articles about the 2 favorite Non-Toxic Air Fryers we have tested, and 15 Best Non-Toxic Air Fryers on the market.
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Table of Contents
1. Toxic Coating in Air Fryers: Teflon And PFAS
Many air fryers feature non-stick coating baskets made from Teflon, which contain PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances). The issue here lies in the potential health and environmental risks associated with PFAS.
What are PFAS?
PFAS, or Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, include chemicals like PFOS and PFOA. The PFAS family encompasses a wide range of chemicals used in various applications like firefighting foams, coatings for clothing and furniture, and even food contact substances.
PFAS were historically used in Teflon for their non-stick properties. One defining trait of PFAS is their resilience; they break down very slowly. This means they can accumulate in people, animals, and the environment over time, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.”
Toxicity of PFOA for Human Health
The presence of PFOA in the Teflon has sparked significant health concerns. Major health organizations globally have identified PFOA high exposure as being definitely or potentially carcinogenic, immunotoxic, and a disruptor of the endocrine system.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has classified PFOA as carcinogenic to humans .”PFOA is carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), on the basis of sufficient evidence”. This classification is based on evidence of it causing testicular and kidney cancer in humans and laboratory animals.
In California, PFOA is listed under Proposition 65 due to its potential to cause birth defects, other reproductive harm, and increased risk of cancer. If exposed during pregnancy, it may affect the child’s development.
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) took a big step in 2013 by listing PFOA as a substance of very high concern. As a result, the EU banned the manufacture and marketing of PFOA from July , 2020.
According to the EPA, there’s a link between exposure to certain PFAS and harmful health effects in humans and animals.
The American Cancer Society sheds more light on the subject. Studies examining cancer rates in communities near PFOA-related chemical plants have suggested a higher risk of testicular and kidney cancer with increased exposure to PFOA. There are also hints at possible links to thyroid, prostate, bladder, breast, and ovarian cancers, though these findings are not conclusive and require more research for clarity.
Lastly, the CDC notes that the effects of low-level environmental exposure to PFOA on human health are still unknown. PFOA can linger in the body for extended periods. In lab animals exposed to high amounts, it has shown to impact growth, development, reproduction, and liver health. Hence, there’s a pressing need for more research to fully understand the health impacts of PFOA exposure on humans.
Toxicity of PFAS for The Environment
PFAS compounds are not just in the non-stick coatings of your kitchenware. In the environment, like in our bodies, these compounds resist breaking down and tend to accumulate. PFOA compounds are polluting the air, soil, and water.
A staggering 98% of Americans were found to have traces of PFOA in their blood! This was highlighted in the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, where CDC scientists measured PFOA in participants’ blood. This indicates how widespread exposure to PFOA is.
Most PFOA pollution is found in drinking water supplies according to Proposition 65. PFOA can seep into groundwater from various sources like sewage plants, industrial sites, landfills, and places using firefighting foam.
Fish and shellfish can absorb PFOA from contaminated water. It can also be released into the air and food from older non-stick cookware and some new imported ones. And it’s not just cookware; older consumer products like leather items, textiles, furniture, carpets, and rugs can release PFOA into the air, where it settles on surfaces and accumulates in dust.
What Material Has Replaced PFOA In Non-Stick Coating? Is It Safer?
Back in 2006, manufacturers began phasing out PFOA from non-stick coatings in pans, and air fryers.
Nowadays, non-stick cookware is typically manufactured using PTFE, PFBS, or GenX coatings. These materials are considered to be safer alternatives and are often marketed as “Teflon free”.
But here’s the catch: the safety of these replacements is still up for debate. In 2019, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) listed them as substances of very high concern. Studies show that GenX compounds, for example, can cause liver, pancreas, and testicular tumors in rats with chronic exposure and are suspected to be toxic to human livers, kidneys, blood cells, and immune systems.
PFBS and its salts are suspected to be particularly toxic to kidneys and the thyroid.
Animal studies have shown that oral exposure to GenX chemicals can affect the liver, kidneys, immune system, offspring development, and could be linked to cancer. The liver seems especially sensitive to GenX exposure.
What Materials Are Safe for Air Fryers ?
- Stainless steel is a popular choice for air fryers, and for good reason. Its non-stick coating is great to prevent metal migration. This makes it a reliable and safe option for air fryer baskets. Here are the best Non-Toxic Air Fryers on the market right now.
- There was a trend to switch from Teflon to ceramic coatings, supposedly safer. However, there’s some ambiguity about what ceramic coatings actually contain. Manufacturers claim they’re mainly silica and alcohol-based binders, but they’re not obliged to reveal their exact compositions. So, we’re a bit in the dark about any potential health risks.
- Glass is a non-toxic material that can withstand high temperature.
- Any coatings free from PFOA, PFTE, GenX, and BPA
Should You Ban Teflon and PFOA From Your Air Fryer?
It’s unclear at what temperature, heated teflon-coated cookware releases toxic fumes. The Environmental Working Group says that teflon-coated pan releases the fumes at 325 degrees, other studies says 660s degrees.
As a precaution, it’s wise to avoid using PFOA, PFTE, or GenX non-stick coating in air fryers.
This 2022 study from Australian researchers found that a single surface crack on a Teflon-coated pan could release about 9,100 plastic particles during the cooking process. Should something break the coating, around 2,300,000 microplastics and nanoplastics may be released and potentially find their way into food.
For all these reasons, it’s safer to just phase out Teflon, PFOA, PFTE, or GenX coatings in air fryers, pans, pot or other highly heated cookware.
What To Do If You Have An Air Fryer That Contains Teflon/PFAS?
If you’re using an air fryer with a coating that might contain Teflon/PFASs, it’s best to stick to low or medium heat and avoid overheating.
Heated teflon-coated cookware does pose a risk by releasing toxic fumes. The Environmental Working Group says that teflon-coated pan releases the fumes at 325 degrees, other studies says 660s degrees. Back in 2009, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) even classified the health risk to consumers as ‘negligible’.
It’s unclear at what temperature, heated teflon-coated cookware releases toxic fumes therefore avoid overheating a teflon-coated pan.
In addition, any scratch on a teflon coated pan could release about 9,100 plastic particles during the cooking process according to this 2022 study from Australian researchers. If you own a teflon-coated pan, use wooden utensils.
2. Acrylamide in Air Fryers
Let’s talk about acrylamide when cooking with an air fryer. When we cook certain foods like potatoes at high temperatures through frying, baking, or roasting, acrylamide can form.
Acrylamide is on the Proposition 65 list because it’s linked to cancer and can cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. But here’s a bit of good news: the levels of acrylamide in food are usually much lower than the levels that cause these harmful effects.
So, how can you keep acrylamide at bay, especially with an air fryer?
- When frying, keep the temperature at 170°C (338°F) or lower. The hotter the oil, the more acrylamide forms.
- Soak raw potato slices in water for 15-30 minutes before frying or roasting. Then drain and pat them dry. This step helps remove some acrylamide precursors.
- Don’t store raw potatoes in the fridge. Cold temperatures can up their sugar content, and sugars can lead to more acrylamide when cooked.
3. Recall of Air Fryers
Recently two significant recalls of air fryers due to fire and burn hazards have been issued. These recalls were not related to the presence of hazardous chemicals in the air fryers.
COSORI Air Fryers Recall:
- Hazard: A wire connection in the COSORI air fryers can overheat, leading to fire and burn hazards.
- Affected Models: The recall involves various models, including CP158-AF, CP137-AF, CS158-AF, and more. These units are 3.7 and 5.8 qt. in size and were sold in black, gray, white, blue, or red colors.
- Incidents Reported: There have been 205 reports of the air fryers catching fire, burning, melting, overheating, and smoking. This includes 10 reports of minor burn injuries and 23 reports of minor property damage.
- Units Affected: Approximately 2 million units in the U.S., 250,000 in Canada, and 21,000 in Mexico.
Secura Air Fryers Recall:
- Hazard: Similar to the COSORI recall, a wire connection in Secura air fryers can overheat, posing fire and burn hazards.
- Affected Models: The recall includes Secura air fryers model number SAF-53D (TXG-DT16E) and SAF-53 (TXG-DS16), which are black with silver accents.
- Incidents Reported: There have been nine reports of the air fryers catching fire, burning, and smoking, although no injuries or property damage have been reported.
- Units Affected: About 6,400 units in the U.S. and 680 in Canada.
More information here:
- US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA)
- US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
National Toxicology Program (NTP)
- California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA)
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)
- California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB)
- Biomonitoring California