• Teflon (or polytetrafluoroethylene) belongs to a class of chemicals known as 'forever chemicals'
  • Research authors have warned against using Teflon-coated utensils
  • Broken teflon coating in utensils can be harmful for the food being cooked

A small crack in Teflon-coated non-stick pans can potentially release as many as 9,100 plastic particles, an alarming study revealed.

In the study published in the journal Science of The Total Environment, scientists from Newcastle University and Flinders University warned against using Teflon-coated utensils.

Teflon coating on utensils generally fade over time as we use and wash them. As the coating releases from the cookware, they can be harmful for the food in it.

The new research, focusing on microplastics (smaller than 5 millimeters or 0.2 inches) and nano plastics (millions of times smaller still), sounded an alarm on the substantial number of plastic fragments that would be added to the food in the long run.

The study revealed a broken teflon coating could lead to the release of as many as 2.3 million tiny particles during meal preparation. This result was determined on the basis of just 30 seconds of cooking time if the utensil had a scratched Teflon surface.

"It gives us a strong warning that we must be careful about selecting and using cooking utensils to avoid food contamination," Youhong Tang, a mechanical and material engineer from Australia's Flinders University, said in a statement.

More concerningly, Teflon (or polytetrafluoroethylene) belongs to a class of chemicals known as 'forever chemicals.' As the name suggests, these chemicals stay in the environment for decades. These Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been linked to a myriad of health problems, according to ScienceAlert.

"Given the fact PFAS is a big concern, these Teflon microparticles in our food might be a health concern," Cheng Fang, a materials scientist at the University of Newcastle in Australia, said.

The challenges revolving around Teflon-coated pans can be resolved if older cooking pots and pans are disposed of after a certain time or if more resistant Teflon coatings could be produced that can tolerate the wear and tear.

Despite their results, the research team also admitted to the limitations of the study. They acknowledged the difficulty in measuring and assessing plastic particles at such a microscopic level.

"More research is recommended to address the risk assessment of the Teflon microplastics and nanoplastics, given that Teflon is a family member of PFAS," Tang concluded.

Another recent study found a concerning link between 'forever chemicals' and lung cancers in humans. It showed the participants were exposed to a variety of PFAS, with perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS) being the most prevalent one. Compared to those with the least exposure to PFOS, those in the top 10% of exposure had a 4.5-fold increased risk of developing liver cancer.

Fake eggs sit in a frying pan in Baker, California, July 23, 2014. Ethan Miller/Getty Images