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The potential health hazards of non-stick pans with coating peeling off
Time: 2024-02-27

In our daily cooking routines, non-stick pans have become indispensable tools in many kitchens. They offer convenience, ease of use, and reduce food sticking, thus promoting healthier cooking with less oil. However, over time and with increased usage, the coating of non-stick pans may start to peel off, posing potential risks to our health.

What is the coating of non-stick?

To understand why non-stick pans live up to their name, we need to delve into the essence of their coating. The key lies in the use of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), more commonly known as Teflon. PTFE fills the crevices and irregularities on the surface of the pan, creating a genuinely smooth film. PTFE is a polymer, with tetrafluoroethylene as its monomer. This material boasts remarkable properties, including high heat resistance, low-temperature endurance, acid and alkali resistance, and exceptional stability, virtually impervious to erosion from any substance. It's earned the moniker "plastic king." The unique characteristics of PTFE allow the coating of non-stick pans to remain stable even at high temperatures, preventing food from adhering to the bottom of the pan and thus achieving the "non-stick" effect.


Can non-stick pans still be used if they have scratches or coating peeling off?

National standards require non-stick coatings to withstand abrasion for at least 5000 cycles. However, many non-stick pans on the market may become unusable after only 2000-3000 cycles, as the coating surface is prone to scratches.

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Newcastle and Flinders University in Australia, published in the journal "Science of the Total Environment," utilized Raman spectroscopy imaging scans on non-stick pans. Combined with identification algorithms and electron microscopy imaging, the analysis revealed that even a small scratch could release a significant amount of microplastics. From the images, researchers observed that damage to the coating as small as a few millimeters could release approximately 2.3 million polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) microplastics and nanoparticles. Even minor cracks or edges of cracks may contain up to 9100 microplastics and nanoparticles. Additionally, the study compared old pans with new ones, finding that the non-stick coating of older pans typically released more plastic fragments after approximately two years of cooking compared to new pans.

Some of the most commonly released harmful chemicals are polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOA is used as a surfactant in the manufacturing of PTFE. These chemicals have been linked to various health issues. Studies indicate that prolonged exposure to these chemicals may result in compromised immune systems, reproductive system problems, and potential carcinogenic risks. However, some unscrupulous manufacturers still use PFOA as a processing aid in production. PFOA can persist in the body for as short as four years to as long as a lifetime.

Firstly, when the coating of a non-stick pan flakes off, food tends to stick and burn, making it difficult to clean. Additionally, this can lead to the formation of more harmful substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), increasing the risk of lung cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer.

Secondly, consuming the flaked coating from a non-stick pan may irritate the gastrointestinal tract. This can result in symptoms such as indigestion and stomach discomfort, and may potentially lead to gastrointestinal diseases such as gastric ulcers or inflammatory bowel disease.

Furthermore, the flaked coating from a non-stick pan can also cause damage to the mouth and esophagus. Accidental ingestion of the coating may cause abrasions or injuries to the esophagus or stomach, leading to pain, bleeding, and discomfort.


When using non-stick pans, there are several precautions to keep in mind:

1. Control the temperature of the non-stick pan to prevent overheating and dry burning. Heating an empty pan for 5 minutes can reach temperatures of up to 800°C, which may release toxic gases such as perfluoroisobutylene, posing health risks.

2. Avoid using steel wool to clean non-stick pans as it can damage the coating. Instead, use a soft cleaning cloth or sponge.

3. Avoid sudden temperature changes, such as adding cold water to a hot non-stick pan, as this can damage the coating.

4. Use wooden, plastic, or nylon utensils when cooking with non-stick pans. Avoid using sharp or metal utensils that can scratch or damage the coating. Additionally, refrain from cooking hard or sharp foods such as clams, bones, or crabs, as they can also damage the non-stick coating.

Therefore, to ensure health safety, we recommend regularly checking the condition of the non-stick coating and promptly replacing pans that are heavily worn or have signs of coating detachment. Additionally, choosing high-quality and reliable non-stick cookware brands, and strictly following the instructions for use and cleaning, can effectively reduce the risk of non-stick coating detachment, thus protecting the health of yourself and your family. In the kitchen, health and safety should always be the top priorities. Therefore, it is essential to handle non-stick coating detachment issues with caution to avoid potential risks and hazards.

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