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.

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