Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)

Chelsy Xiong // Blog Post #1frying-pan Polytetrafluoroethylene
Discovered accidentally by Roy Plunkett working for Du Pont in 1938 it is one of a class of plastics known as fluoropolymers and its registered trade name is Teflon. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is polymerized from the chemical compound tetrafluoroethylene which is synthesized from fluorspar, hydrofluoric acid, and chloroform. It was first marketed as a coating for metallic and mechanical parts, but later started to be marketed for coated cookware. PTFE is stable at low temperatures and has a very high melting point, because of this it can only be dissolved by hot fluorine gas or certain molten metals. It is extremely resistant to corrosion and is also very slick and slippery. That fact made it, “the perfect material for coating machine parts which are subjected to heat, wear, and friction, for laboratory equipment which must resist corrosive chemicals, and as a coating for cookware and utensils”.
Typical Uses:
Non-stick frying pans, to create stain-resistance fabrics, carpets, wall coverings, and as weatherproofing on outdoor signs. A fiberglass fabric with PTFE coating serves to protect the roofs of airports and stadiums. PTFE can be weaved into the fibers of socks to create low friction and lessen blisters. An electrical insulator because of its low electrical conductivity. Data communication cable insulation as well as medical applications, such as in vascular grafts.
The Environment:
Although PTFE is considered non-toxic it still produces toxic byproducts such as hydrofluoric acid and carbon dioxide. Although some waste created during the manufacturing process can be reused the used PTFE parts should be buried in landfills and only landfills because there was a study that claimed that there is a substance in PTFE that when degraded is toxic to plants. If incinerated it will release hydrogen chloride and more toxic substances.

 

DAVID A. BENDER. “PTFE.” A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. 2005. Encyclopedia.com.
“Teflon.” How Products Are Made. 2002. Encyclopedia.com.

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One comment

  1. nguy2161

    I like the fact that your post gives a very detailed explanation on the material and its background. What caught my attention was the last part where you mentioned the material’s toxicity. I’ve read numerous articles regarding PTFE and its associated material, Teflon. Non-stick coatings found in cookware and other kitchen appliances have a high tendency to release toxic carcinogenic fumes when they get overheated. Once these fumes get released within the building that it’s present in, it can be detrimental to human and animal health as well as the environment. This is a serious issue and although there have been some efforts to reduce the use of PTFE in some of the cookware and appliances today, I believe that it is not good enough. A lot of people may still be using products that have these PTFE and Teflon coating to them and are not aware of the possible risk that they may be at. There are safer cookware and appliance alternatives to PTFE and Teflon but I think consumers are more drawn to purchasing the PTFE and Teflon coated products due to the low cost.

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