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Self Cleaning Ovens – Toxic For Humans or Only Birds?

A friend recently mentioned she was cleaning her oven using the self cleaning option on her machine and the terrible smell. Anyone that has used this feature knows what I’m talking about. I’ve only used it once – maybe 5 years ago and I had the worst reaction physically; my eyes went dry and itchy, throat burned, and I had a wicked headache for days.  I realize I’m more sensitive that most with how my body reacts to strong scent, but it reminded me to research this topic and the news isn’t great for you that love the convenience of this feature on their oven.

It’s very interesting the limited amount of information available on the topic of self cleaning ovens and just how toxic they are for human health. But (and it explains the title of this article) there is loads on the effects of what happens when pets (birds especially) are near a room with the oven using the self clean feature. Even the company DuPont (the creator of Teflon) acknowledges that hundreds of pet birds die each year.  Remember DuPont?  They are the creators of Teflon and other non-stick chemicals that have been poisoning their community in West Virginia for years.  Although they pay their employees well – the environmental destruction is significant and several law-suits have ensued from members of their community when their water system was contaminated and people working at the DuPont plant were suffering from significant health problems (asthma, birth defects, cancers, etc.). With all of the controversy surrounding DuPont, it really freaks me out when even they admit chemicals (PFOA) they still use, should be phased out by 2015. So here is the quote from a website dedicated to bird health who has summarized the self cleaning oven debate quite nicely…the site is called  Avian Web site and I quote:

Do not run the self-cleaning cycle on ovens when birds are around. Self-cleaning ovens are lined with PTFE (Teflon) and reach 900 degrees Fahrenheit during the self-cleaning cycle and emit gasses into the air that kill birds rather quickly.

Huh?  Self cleaning ovens are lined with Teflon?  We know what happens when Teflon is subjected to high heat (especially 900 degrees Fahrenheit) and the off-gassing is very toxic for humans.   While shopping today I popped into a department store to ask a sales rep her opinion on self cleaning ovens, Teflon, non-stick coatings, etc. The look I got was that I was speaking from another Planet. So my idea on this is even if you are told a non-stick coating is Teflon or PFC free – like your oven – always be cautious. I would recommend simply not using the self clean option on your oven.  Especially if you have babies, children, or pregnant people that might be exposed to the fumes.  Yes, you can ventilate your home, but if it’s one thing I’ve learned about the PFOA crowd of chemicals – they are bad friends that don’t go away easily. They are carcinogens and unlike our friends phthalates or PBA, they do not flush out of our systems quickly. They have a very long existence making them one of the worst offenders within man made chemicals to stay away from.

And just in case you are wondering how to clean your ovens naturally – I tried this incredibly simple and easy oven cleaner recipe from the Cleaning Naked site and what do you know? It worked on my oven that hasn’t had a deep clean in years. I let the baking soda sit for maybe 5 hours – didn’t even require the overnight recommendation in the directions.

I promise to talk more about Teflon this month. Until then, if you are using Perfluorochemicals chemicals: non-stick pans/pots, microwavable popcorn bags, clothing or furniture that repels stains are the best places to start phasing out this chemical from your life. Also stay clear of products with the ingredient starting with perfluoro. I sorted out my scratched Teflon frying pans and pots that I received as wedding gifts a few months ago and although eggs will never be easy again – I’m getting the hang of using my stainless steel frying pans.  The extra time is worth not serving up a portion of Teflon in family meals each day.

 

This article was submitted to the Frugal Days Sustainable Ways Blog Hop on April 17th, hosted by Frugally Sustainable.

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