Newcastle University scientists have found that a single scratch on the surface of a non-stick pan can introduce millions of microplastic particles into food.
Per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), also known as “timeless chemicals”, are adhesive and heat-resistant particles used to make millions of non-stick or Teflon-coated cookware items. In recent years, PFAS have been linked to a host of health problems, including several types of cancer, autism, and infertility.
There are so many of them that a 2020 study found that 99 percent of people have them in their blood. Now, scientists have found that just one five-centimeter scratch on a Teflon pan — perhaps from a spatula or spoon — releases up to 2.3 million microplastics into food and the environment.
When a person eats food contaminated with PFAS chemicals, they remain in the body for a long period of time as they are excreted very slowly in the urine. They are considered “timeless chemicals” because they take nearly a decade to break down in the body and never break down in the environment.
Researchers warn that exposure to “everlasting chemicals” in adolescence can affect a child’s social and physical development, as well as affect their behavior as they grow older. A University of Texas study last year found that children exposed to PFAS in the womb were more likely to develop autism.
Long-term exposure can also put a person at higher risk for kidney, testicular, ovarian, prostate, thyroid, and bone marrow cancer when they reach adulthood.