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Thermolon T and "Greenpan"


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#1 Orpheus

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Posted 22 November 2007 - 06:22 AM

Recently there has been a surge of publicity for a new nonstick coating called Thermolon T.

Now you know I'm going to be interested in any new cookware technology, so I looked into it. What I found was ... almost nothing. There was a whole lot about what it isn't (PTFE or PFOA) and a lot of thoroughly unfounded innuendo about the health risks of those nonstick coatings -- which we have covered in this forum before. I have since reviewed the literature more, and was surprised to find that it is actually safe to higher temperatures than the cookware manufacturers state, but that's not going to change my cooking habits to take advantage of this. I think the extra margin of error is a good idea, for durability if not for health. As for swallowing PTFE, it's so inert that it is commonly used as a protective coating in implants and prostheses, and is a common material in angiocaths (those little tubes they stick into your blood vessels for IVs),  permanent central access, and many other things. Everyone from the FDA to Consumer Reports Magazine independent testing agrees it's safe in cookware when used as directed. I wouldn't use it if I owned birds, though.

By contrast, there is essentially nothing in the literature about Thermolon. You'd have a tough time finding it, if there were, because you have to dig to even find out that it is some kind of ceramic. ceramics are a very broad category of substances with a huge diversity in chemical composition. I can think of quite a few that are toxic, and I'm sure you've heard of toxic ceramic recalls, even in recent years, such as Mexican dishes that leached lead. I'm not saying Thermolon is dangerous. I'm just saying that while any maker of teflon-like PTFE pans will tell you outright that the coating is polytetrafluoroethylene, or  perfluoroalkoxy or fluorinated ethylene propylene, but the Thermolon people won't tell you what exactly is in theirs. It's just a proprietary mystery ceramic from China, and it would be ironic if anyone who was worried about subtle health effects of nonstick to leap from a substance that has been extensively lab-tested as safe, and has been used in US cookware for 60+ years, to a substance about which very little is known, and which appears to be having quality control issues (see below)

You may wonder how toxic leaded glass, ceramics, etc. could be sold in the US. Well, glass and ceramics are generally considered safe for cooking, and and each batch doesn't necessarily need to be tested. If it *is* actually tested, it will be quick standard tests like an acid leach test to see if e.g. lead leaches out into acid foods, or boiling for 24 hours in a 10% salt solution (BS7069 1988) to check if the rivets corrode, etc.. Cookware isn't checked as carefully or followed as long term as substances that are certified for permanent medical implantation. (If it were, we might all be eating raw: even grilling on a pointy stick over a campfire produces carcinogens). That's why quality control come in. There seems to be a lot of variance in the durability of the nonstick. Some people report almost immediate loss (days or weeks), others report none at all. Since  testing (if any) is only done on a few samples, inconsistent quality may mean that *your* pan isn't as safe as the one tested (with Mexican ceramic dishes, defects or absence of a transparent sealing glaze let lead out of the bright pigments)

That's why I worry when I read scattered reports of early failure Thermolon T failure (usually it is reportedly very durable): when the  the nonstick wears away, you only know one thing: some of it (whatever it was) was in your food.

What strikes me most, though, is the completely unethical marketing. They are flooding many internet sites posing as ordinary people, spreading false "facts" about PTFE. posting glowing reviews whenever anyone complains. At Cooking.com, a group of everything from "ordinary folk" to "impartial industry experts" descended on the Thermolon thread praising the product, dismissing people with questions/concerns/comlaints (though some of this group apparently hadn't tried it yet, when they started the thread saying things later like "My pans just arived and they are great", and spreading blatant falsehoods. After 9 pages of highly suspect debate, an admin checked  the IPs and traced many back to Greenpan. That simply isn't kosher. Many of them were banned, but others showed up in other threads, and the admins suggest that more may come from a marketing company.

You should keep your eye out for this kind of marketing everywhere now. Marketing companies try to plant accounts on Ex Isle, too. Often a cursory check of a new application turns up a pattern of posts across a variety of forums, shilling a product. Any one post seems innocent but when you see them all, it becomes very obvious. It's a hot viral marketing technique that goes by many names, and was written up in a special edition of Business Week (in fact, the "expert company" and industry pioneer, that BW interviewed has tried to register some accounts on EI) where the CEO calmly talks about how they have to be careful because online communities like us or cooking.com can turn on them if they are caught. It's just an acceptable risk to them -- as with email spammers, any time they aren't caught is pure profit.

I'm really rooting for Thermolon to be the next Great Thing, because I'd really *love* to add an affordable, ultradurable, high temperature non-stick technology that I can safely put under a broiler. I just wouldn't want anyone to buy Thermolon T under a mistaken impression that it's a safer "green"  alternative to other nonstick. They don't tell us enough to even judge if it's *as* safe as PTFE.

In fact, having just spent an hour surfing  for facts as I watch an infomercial for the Thermolon T Greenpan, with dozens of repetitions about the importance of my kids and grandkids and the future and the environment and the evil intiials PTFE... I still haven't heard one solid reason why this "green pan" is any better for any of that than a cheap Teflon pan.

#2 Raeven

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Posted 22 November 2007 - 09:23 AM

I assume that this is the same 'greenpan' as Marco Pierre White and Russell Hobbs have been pushing as their 'new eco-friendly cookware'....the only 'technical' information available for these products is

Quote

As well as a higher heat resistance than traditional nonstick coatings, thermalon is more eco-friendly to produce.
which doesn't tell me much!

Edited by Raeven, 22 November 2007 - 09:24 AM.


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