The last of my formerly complete set of Circulon pans, a wedding present 11 years ago, was solemnly  sent off to the Cooking Pan Graveyard recently. As I researched the best replacement for the much-used, much loved matrimonial gift, I found that Amazon offered a fabulous deal on a new range of Circulon pans, which came with a free casserole dish worth $100. It would have been foolish to have let it slip. The purchase took place without a hitch – shopping online, time and money saved, prompt doorstep delivery, feet and nails intact.

The new pans, heatable to 400F (as high as I generally need the oven to go), are practically self-clean. Before I’ve picked up the sponge and doused it with washing-up liquid, the caked-up food has fallen off and the pan is, well, like new again. I hypnotically go through the motions still, of washing, as a matter of habit, as the pans themselves are bright and brimming with confidence.

So, I should be really, really happy.

But no, a dark cloud, reeking of burnt plastic, looms on the horizon. Just as a recent diagnosis of an underactive thyroid began to sink in, this study showed up, suggesting a possible link between nonstick pan use and thyroid disease. (Thyroid hormone helps maintain and regulate one’s heart rate, body temperature and supports metabolism, reproduction, digestion and mental health.)

As one who insists on cooking 98% of her family’s meals in order to control what they’re ingesting, I am not amused. I’m already kicking myself for buying good-enough pans for $300 after discounts (original price was $783), instead of remortgaging the house and buying the $2,000 ones.

But then I’m not fancy schmancy Gordon Ramsay. I was perfectly content with my pans, my food looked and tasted great, the customers (ie family) keep coming back, I could go easy on the olive oil, and spend less time slaving over the sink. And, despite the absence off flashy copper-bottomed pans, I was easily better company in the kitchen than Mr Hell’s Kitchen.

The study, by the Environmental Health Perspectives, a monthly journal of research and news on environmental and health matters, found that people with higher levels of the chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in their blood, had higher rates of thyroid disease.

While the link isn’t established yet as as causal one, it is a solid statistical link which worries me as a prolific cook who uses nonstick pans. After all, the key source of human exposure to PFOA is believed to be through diet, and secondarily, through consumer good such as fabrics and carpets.

This is what DuPont, who makes Teflon non-stick coating, say: (Do note Teflon isn’t PFOA but PFOA is used to make Teflon)

Can I get exposed to PFOA from cookware?
Using testing methods developed and approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), DuPont has concluded that consumers cannot be exposed to PFOA through cookware coated with Teflon® non-stick finishes.

Is PFOA in cookware?
DuPont and several U.S. and international agencies have not detected PFOA in cookware coated with Teflon® using tests and methods that are consistent with the testing methodology of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

PFOA is found in non-stick pans, and is used to stain- and waterproof fabric. The chemical doesn’t, in general, break down unless heated above 500F – something that could happen if you were boiling spaghetti, left the kitchen and got distracted, and the pan subsequently heated up and boiled dry. Not that you’d eat the stuff, but there’d be no escaping the PFOA fumes and particles that would be partying in your kitchen’s atmosphere.

Needless to say, I’m now researching two things. How to return these flipping pans (mostly still brand new) and whether Mr Ramsay will sell me his used copper-bottomed, non-nonstick ones that he can’t be ar#ed to wash.