I've seen these pans at one of the local cookware/houseware stores as well and wondered the same thing. The best I've been able to dig up so far is the following:
GreenPan's official statement about their material is:
GreenPan™ does not use PTFE, but brings with Thermolon™ non-stick technology a healthy alternative to the market. Thermolon™ is heat resistant up to high temperatures. This means that GreenPan™ has an extra safety feature; if you overheat your pan, even up to 450°C/850°F, no toxic fumes will be released and the coating will not blister or peel.
Obviously I can't verify the claims about overheating and the absence of fumes or blistering/peeling, but one thing is for certain: The pans are not Teflon. Instead they use a Thermolon compound, which really and truly does not use PTFE, the "harmful" compound in Teflon products.
Of course, as we all know, that doesn't mean it's safe. This "Thermolon" stuff is brand-new to the market so there's been very little real-world testing done. And nobody seems to know exactly what it's made of. If you look at early sources you'll see them blathering on about it being made with "nanotechnology", but I found an interesting little tidbit on Mother Nature Network:
UPDATE: Thermolon’s non-stick formulation is actually not the product of nanotechnology. It turns out that one of the company’s “over-enthusiastic” copy writers slipped that description in because it “sounded high-tech,” not because it was true.
This information seems to be confirmed at SuperEco. None of them cite a source, but apparently this came straight from the horse's mouth (Thermolon) - they refuted the nanotech claim themselves.
So one thing we do know about this company is that they've made at least one bald-faced lie. That's not enough to indict them on safety terms but it certainly does cast a suspicious light on them. The company is also in South Korea - again, not that this necessarily means anything but SK has a pretty dismal track record when it comes to safety.
It's also interesting to read some of the reviews. I've seen several go like this on one the MNN page:
Obviously all these great comments about the pans were from people who most likely had only these pans for a few months. They worked great for about 6 months and then every single think I cooked started to stick and burn to the pans.
Other people say they lasted for a year, two years, etc., but all seem to confirm the same basic fact: the non-stick coating wears off over time. If it wears off, it has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is probably in your food. Whether or not these incredibly tiny amounts of unspecified ceramic material are actually dangerous remains to be studied.
So to summarize, here's what the reality seems to be:
- Is it Teflon? No, and it doesn't use any PFOA/PTFE.
- Is it safe? Inconclusive. So far there's no evidence of safety issues.
- Is it eco-friendly? Given that the company is so defensive about its manufacturing process, I'm inclined to believe that their "green" claims are exaggerated at best.
- Is it actually any good? Only with very light use, according to the reviews.