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As a site dedicated to bringing readers the best eco-friendly and non-toxic products, naturally LeafScore has an in-depth article on the best non-toxic, non-stick pans. Within this piece, we previously gave the brand GreenPan our highest leaf ranking for its toxin-free ceramic coating and ability to transition from the stove to the oven without issue.
However, information has recently come to our attention about GreenPan that has caused us to remove it from our list entirely. Here’s a closer look into why we made that decision.
Is GreenPan Guilty of Greenwashing?
GreenPan is a cookware brand available for purchase online and throughout national retailers like Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond. The company has established a reputation for selling eco-friendly, non-stick cookware that’s better for you than competing products.
Most GreenPan cookware contains a patented Thermolon™ ceramic non-stick coating that’s advertised as “completely toxin-free,” “healthy,” and “free of PFOA, PFAS, lead, and cadmium.”
However, the company has come under scrutiny for these claims in recent years, and many are accusing it of greenwashing. In 2012, GreenPan took heat from the National Advertising Division for making untrue claims within its advertisements. After the NAD’s critiques, GreenPan changed the wording within its ad campaigns. Some now argue this wording, while technically different, is just as misleading as before.
A 2019 class-action lawsuit Saldivar vs. The Cookware Company (USA) LLC brought these concerns into the courtroom. Within this current lawsuit, shopper Anna Saldivar claims she was duped by GreenPan’s advertising to spend more money on a pan she was promised would be healthier and more environmentally friendly. The lawsuit breaks down GreenPan’s claims to show how the brand is overstating its advantages over other pans that promise less from a health and environmental perspective.
As of December, 2020, that lawsuit has been settled, and as a result, the claims have been dismissed “without prejudice,” which means they can be brought again but no decision on the merits was reached.
We had been keeping a watchful eye on the lawsuit, but with the settlement, we will never know exactly what happened with GreenPan’s alleged misrepresentations, or have the opportunity for the plaintiff’s claims to be adjudicated in a public forum. As such, the GreenPan situation is too murky for us to recommend this cookware, and we have stripped the brand of all its leaves.
Further, the claims against GreenPan tell us a lot. Let’s break down those claims to see whether GreenPan is guilty of greenwashing.
Known Toxins in the “Non-Toxic” Coating
GreenPan advertises that its non-stick pans contain “0% toxins” and are “good for the environment.” But, according to this lawsuit, GreenPan’s Thermolon™ coating contains several toxins, including silane and aluminum oxide. Silane is a colorless, flammable gas that is toxic to breathe in and known for irritating the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. At the same time, aluminum oxide exposure can lead to lung damage.
Other compounds that have the potential to be toxic found in GreenPan pans include the following:
- Tetraethoxysilane– respiratory and skin irritation
- Methyltrimethoxysilane – serious eye, skin, and respiratory irritation
- Potassium titanate – harmful if inhaled, potential carcinogen
Likewise, GreenPan’s claims that its pans are superior for not containing PFOA, PFAs, lead, or cadmium are suspect. All non-stick cookware produced in the United States has been free of PFOA since 2013 when Teflon stopped using them in its coating. Their exclusion is now the norm, not a distinguishing factor.
So, while GreenPan claims that its cookware is free of these compounds, “unlike traditional non-stick cookware,” this statement is factually untrue. In reality, you’ll struggle to buy a pan today that contains them.
Many cookware companies erroneously claim today to be free of PFAS. Toxicology reports from the Ecology Center found that undisclosed PFAS coatings are common in cookware, even in brands that use “PFOA-free” as part of their branding. According to the study, close to 80% of the tested pans were coated with PTFE, a fluoropolymer made from PFAS.
In this way, cookware brands often mislead customers by using the fact that they are free of one (illegal) toxin to imply that others also are not present. However, there is no evidence that GreenPan is also guilty of this practice, so the claims that these pans are PFAS-free are believable.
Not So “Good for the Environment”
GreenPan claims its products are eco-friendly, primarily due to production practices. The company states that up to 60% less carbon dioxide is emitted during the curing phase of the Thermolon coating than its competitors.
However, the company does little to substantiate this statement or share which brands it is specifically competing with. This statement goes against the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guidelines about avoiding broad, unqualified claims about environmental benefits.
GreenPan also states that its Thermolon coating is made in a process that doesn’t require PFOA or PFAS during production. Again, that’s true for every cookware brand sold in the U.S. today—regardless of whether they brand themselves as eco-friendly.
Little Evidence of “Healthier Food”
Finally, GreenPan strongly implies that using its cookware is a healthy choice. However, the absence of “toxins” in the pan itself won’t translate to more nutritious food for the consumer. Cooking with GreenPan won’t make your meals lower in fat or higher in nutrients, as some may be led to believe.
And, as stated above, the brand might be overstating its claims to be 100% toxin-free.
Our Takeaway: Taking GreenPan Off Our List
Even with the lawsuit reaching settlement, there’s mounting evidence that this cookware brand is guilty of greenwashing.
GreenPan’s advertising targets health-conscious and eco-conscious customers, many of whom are willing to pay a premium for products that deliver what GreenPan claims to.
So until we see more evidence that GreenPan is really offering you something special for your money, we’re going to keep it off our ranking and promote brands we feel more confident about instead.