Dec 10, 2009

When people pretend they know chemistry

With the boxing day sales coming up, I thought I'd look into buying some cookware. Labchimp suggested a few pieces of essentials for me, such as the Scanpan classic frypan, but he also suggested that I take a look at the Swiss Diamond fry pan, which as the name suggests contains diamond on the cooking surface. Apparently it's supposed to conduct heat better than copper and is nonstick (not to mention very very hard).

I thought I'd google any reviews on these fry pans, and I came across this forum thread. As with a lot of threads, things get off topic, and eventually these guys are engaging in a war of words, each armed with their own arsenal of pseudoscientific jargon and arguments. Fascinated and disgusted, I kept reading, and this post by glenngarden is by far the most ludicrous:

AkChicago, the temperature rating of the Eurolux says it all. It is heat resistant to 1200 deg. C. and the surface is ten times stronger than steel. PTFE breaks down at 500 deg. F. You certainly know the conversion of Fahrenheit to Celcius. C = 5/9 x(F-32). So 500F = 260C. And really we know that PTFE starts to kill birds at much lower temperatures.

So Eurolux cookware surface is rated for 1200 Deg. C.
ScanPan pan surface is rated for 260 Deg. C at best. Higher than that it certainly kills the birds. If it kills the birds do you want to use it?

As you correctly point out, PTFE is a Flourocarbon: Poly Tetra Flouro Ethylene. Notice the Flourine molecule that's in PTFE. Eurolux doesn't use Flourine molecules. Hey, I think Flourine gas is a quick killer, too. And you should not drink Flouride water or use flouride containing toothpaste either. Flourides are known to cause cancer, too. If you want to find Flouride free toothpaste, just visit your neighborhood healthfood store, Whole Foods, etc.

Carbon is an element, no 12 on the Periodic table. Humans are made from carbon compounds. Diamonds are made from pure carbon depending on the crystal structure. Diamonds are the hardest substance and have the highest melting temperature. Nothing unhealthy about carbon. Lead is also made of carbon, and it's not healthy. But the temperature rating of the Eurolux tells you that the carbon fibers are not lead! However, many carbon containing polymeric compounds are deadly. PTFE/Teflon is known to cause cancer in rodents. Carbon doesn't cause cancer. We are made of carbon. Carbon is healthy. PTFE is a carcinogen. Eurolux is heat resistant to 1200 Deg. C. Scanpan fumes at around 200 deg. C, well below frying temperatures.

If you want to eat healthy, or remove at least one source of carcinogen in your life, stay far away from any PTFE pot or pan. Stay away from ScanPan carcinogenic PTFE pots and pans. Use something healthier.

If you don't want to spend the money (Eurolux is expensive), then use high quality stainless steel. Stainless steel is a healthy cooking surface, non carcinogenic, but the eggs won't slip off the pan. You will have to scrub for 10 minutes. But I'd rather scrub for ten minutes, get some exercise in the process, than get cancer with ScanPan. Wouldn't you?

Where do I start with the problems in that... that PTFE doesn't have any fluorine molecules? Eurolux uses a different type of fluorocarbon as their nonstick agent, but somehow that doesn't possess any 'fluorine molecules'? What does PTFE have to do with fluorine gas? and What does fluorine gas have to do with fluoride toothpaste? I mean, maybe we should stop eating salt because chlorine gas is toxic and sodium reacts violent with water!!!

Humans are made from carbon compounds, ok fine, but I can name in my sleep about fifty carbon compounds that will kill you. Sure carbon is not unhealthy anymore? How does diamond's hardness and melting temperature have anything to do with whether PTFE is toxic? Since when did we learn how to make lead from carbon? But if there's nothing unhealthy about carbon, then why is lead which is supposedly made of carbon unhealthy? The temperature rating of Eurolux tells you that the carbon fibres are not lead? HHHHHHHWAAAT?????

Wow wow wee, carbon doesn't cause cancer... I wish you told me that during that time in the lab when I had to catalogue every chemical in the lab and found that the HMPA bottle's lid was completely cracked. Oh by the way the other element found in PTFE is CARBON.

I'm not too worried about whether the PFTE is going to kill me or not. If you're going to use a nonstick pan, don't expect to use it on high heat. Keep it on medium or low and you'll be fine. For high heat go for a solid metal pan with no organic coating. In any case, how much more toxic things than PFTE have us chemists been exposed to anyway. Bring on the nonstick!


  1. lead is made from carbon?!
    lmao :)

  2. One of the articles that guy "cited" is just precious: The title is "Dupont's troubled chemical C-8 is widespread in the environment. How did it get there, and should we be worried?"

    What is C-8? My first thought was that they are referring to an eight carbon chain, omitting all other elements. But that can't be, because the article states that "C-8" does not exist in nature. In fact, it is only made by dupont. Maybe they are referring to the 2-neutron carbon isotope, with a halflife in the femtosecond range?


    I dare you to read the rest of the website.

  3. ROFLMAO! My favourite part is "lead is made of carbon and it's not healthy". Also the killing birds thing, I can picture the experiment now: This frying pan kills birds *WHACK!* see?

    It's like the people who market laundry powder as "activating" water to atomic oxygen and hydrogen. Uh huh. Sure it does. All you can do is laugh, get drunk on rum, and swear if you found them in real life you'd make them walk the plank.