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Are you cooking with poison? Non-stick pans release microplastics – study

Non-stick cookware has become increasingly popular over the years due to its convenience in cooking and cleaning.

However, a new study published in the Science of the Total Environment journal found that non-stick cookware may release millions of micro and nan plastics into food if the coating is cracked.

The market demand for non-stick cookware reached 206.1 million units worldwide in 2020, and with the growing preference for it, the demand is expected to increase even more.

Non-stick cooking pan with vegetables. PHOTO| PHOTOSFORCLASS

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The non-stick coating, commonly known as Teflon, is made of a synthetic fluoropolymer called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).

The study found that non-stick cookware mainly coated with Teflon may release about 9,100 plastic particles during cooking if it has a surface crack.

If something breaks the coating, around 2,300,000 microplastics and nanoplastics may be released, potentially finding their way into food. PFAS, a group of chemicals that don’t break down in the environment, contaminates soil and water and builds up in the bodies of living creatures.

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PFAS falls under per- and polyfluorinated substances and is also known as “forever chemicals” due to its widespread environmental occurrence.

“To avoid contaminating food or the environment with plastic particles from PTFE cookware, at-home chefs must use soft turners or non-sharp utensils that don’t scratch the surface during the cooking and cleaning process. Should there be any scratches on the cookware, replacement is recommended,” says Cheng Fang, a senior research fellow at the University of Newcastle in Australia.

The study also found that the coating can release toxic chemicals into the air when it reaches extreme temperatures.

Peaslee, professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame, suggests re-evaluating the necessity of Teflon-coated cookware, saying that it may have been marketed as a great new technology in the 1950s. Still, cast iron always worked just as well.

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Non-stick cooking pan with vegetables. PHOTO| PHOTOSFORCLASS

There are reasonable alternatives that will do less harm to the environment and not support the fluoropolymer industry, like ceramics or stainless steel. “In our daily lives, we have lots of plastic items surrounding us,” Fang adds.

“Most of them can gradually release microplastics and nanoplastics in their lifetimes, as tested and confirmed in this study.” Therefore, reducing the use of plastics and improving the recycling process should be a top priority.

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