Cooking

Non-stick pans could release millions of microplastics into potential ‘healthcare,’ study says

Non-stick pots can release millions of tiny plastic particles while users cook or wash.

In a new study, Australian researchers said just one surface crack on a Teflon-coated pan could release about 9,100 plastic particles.

At the micro-scale, Raman imaging and algorithmic modeling have shown that broken coating can lead to the release of 2.3 million microplastics and nanoplastics.

Microplastics are pieces of plastic of less than five millimeters and nanoplastics of less than 1 micrometer.

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“The non-stick material Teflon is generally a relative of PFAS,” says Dr. Cheng Fang, one of the authors of the study, researcher from the University of Newcastle, in a press release from Flinders University.

Olive oil in a pan
(iStock)

“Given that PFAS is a major concern, these Teflon microparticles in our food could pose a health risk, [which] should be investigated because we don’t know much about these emerging contaminants,” he warned.

According to FOX 5, Fang and his team tested six different non-stick pots and pans that were new and used, mimicking a cooking or cleaning process even though no food or cooking oil was used.

The station said a steel spatula, barbecue clamp, stainless steel wool scrubber and wooden spatula were used on the cookware tested.

Fang told FOX 5 that even if there was no damage to the cookware, the coating could still release particles over time.

Black Teflon baking dish
(Natasha Breen/Reda and Co/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

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Flinders University researcher Professor Youhong Tang said the study cautions people to exercise caution in selecting and using utensils to avoid food contamination, but recommends more research, “since Teflon is a relative of PFAS.”

Teflon is a synthetic plastic chemically composed of carbon and fluorine atoms.

A geologist collects samples of treated water from Lake Michigan at a lab in Wilmette, Illinois, on July 3, 2021.
(Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

It has low friction and remarkable chemical, thermal and electrical stability, according to the study.

Teflon is also a member of PFAS, which are known as “forever chemicals” because it takes hundreds – or even thousands – of years to break down in the environment.

They can also persist in the human body and potentially cause health problems.

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PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are found in thousands of everyday products, but also in soil, air and water.

People are most likely exposed to the chemicals by consuming PFAS-contaminated water or food, using products made with PFAS, or breathing air containing PFAS.

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