Anyone who has tried (and failed) to fry an egg without breaking the yoke or tried to clean burnt-on food off of cast-iron is well aware of the convenience of non-stick pans. For easy cleaning, you can't beat them.

However, consumers should be aware that, as is often the case, high-tech solutions can come at a price. A new study has found that the chemicals used to make non-stick pans, known as perfluoroalkyl acids (PFOA and PFOS), may play a role in raising the cholesterol in children. The potential link stems from a pending lawsuit over the exposure of children to the chemicals in their drinking water.

The authors of the study, which was published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, stress that the children in question were exposed to higher-than-usual amounts of the compound. Although there is no definitive link at this time between PFOA and cholesterol, the authors also indicate that more research is warranted to rule it out.

What Are PFOAs and PFOSs?

PFOA and PFOS are used to give non-stick pans heat resistance. They also occur as breakdown products from the manufacture of food packaging as well treatments used in certain fabrics, especially carpets and stain-resistant clothing.

When people are exposed to these compounds, it is known that they wind up in the liver, which is the organ that makes cholesterol and processes fat from the foods that we eat. Previous research has suggested that PFOA and PFOS may affect how well our body is able to process these fats.

In order to better understand this relationship, researchers turned their attention to a large group of children (12,000) who had been exposed to PFOA as a result of an industrial accident. As a result, they had average blood levels of the compound of 69.2ng/ml compared to the national average of 3.9ng/ml.

In addition to high levels of PFOA, the children also displayed elevated levels of total cholesterol and low density lipoproteins (LDL) in their blood. LDLs are also known as "bad" cholesterol and is linked to heart disease.

Must We Toss Out the Non-Stick Cookware?

It is, however, too early to say if heightened exposure to PFOA does in fact increase this risk. Furthermore, the levels seen in the study are much higher than those found in non-stick cookware, thus complicating the formulation of any conclusions. In fact, researchers say that a greater concern is what is actually cooked in the frying pans when it comes to serum cholesterol.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that PFOA is prevalent in the environment and can be detected in a large percentage of the population. It has also been found to be carcinogenic in animal models.

In the age of the "hyper-informed" parent, these facts may simply be more fodder to feed the fear-mongering machine, but when it comes to the health and safety of your kids, it is difficult not to take notice, especially when there are viable alternatives to non-stick cookware.

If you have questions for concerns about PFOA, speak with your pediatrician and visit the website for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Other Articles You May Enjoy: