ICMR Warns Against Overheating Non-Stick Pans: Tips to Prevent Toxin Exposure

▴ ICMR Warns Against Overheating Non-Stick Pans
At temperatures above 170°C (338°F), Teflon can break down and release toxic fumes. These fumes may contain harmful substances, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and even micro- and nano-plastics.

Non-stick cookware has become a staple in many kitchens due to its convenience and ease of cleaning. However, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recently released guidelines urging users to follow strict usage and cleaning instructions to avoid exposure to harmful toxins. Here's what you need to know to use non-stick cookware safely and maintain good health.

Understanding Non-Stick Cookware and Teflon: Non-stick cookware is typically coated with Teflon, a synthetic chemical compound made from carbon and fluorine atoms. Teflon’s non-stick properties make it ideal for cooking with minimal oil, reducing the risk of food sticking to the pan. However, Teflon has its drawbacks, especially when used improperly.

Risks Associated with Non-Stick Cookware: While Teflon-coated cookware is generally safe at normal cooking temperatures, it can become hazardous when overheated. At temperatures above 170°C (338°F), Teflon can break down and release toxic fumes. These fumes may contain harmful substances, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and even micro- and nano-plastics. Prolonged exposure to these toxins can lead to health issues.

ICMR's Recommendations on Non-Stick Cookware: The ICMR, along with the National Institute of Nutrition, has emphasized the following guidelines for the safe use of non-stick cookware

1. Follow Usage and Cleaning Instructions: Always adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for using and cleaning non-stick cookware. This helps prevent damage to the Teflon coating and reduces the risk of toxin release.

2. Avoid Overheating: Do not heat non-stick pans to temperatures above 170°C. Overheating can occur if an empty pan is left on a burner for too long. Always add food or oil to the pan before heating it.

3. Discard Worn-Out Pans: If the Teflon coating starts to wear out or gets damaged, it’s time to discard the pan. Using damaged non-stick cookware can increase the risk of ingesting harmful particles.

Healthy Cooking Practices: In addition to these specific guidelines for non-stick cookware, the ICMR has released 17 new dietary guidelines to help Indians make healthier food choices. These guidelines cover various aspects of diet and nutrition, emphasizing the importance of healthy cooking practices.

1. Healthy Cooking Methods: The guidelines recommend a variety of cooking methods such as soaking, popping, sprouting, malting, fermenting, blanching, steaming, frying, roasting, and slow cooking. These methods help preserve the nutritional value of food while enhancing its flavor and digestibility.

2. Food Safety: Food safety is crucial for overall health. The guidelines stress the importance of proper food handling, storage, and preparation to prevent foodborne illnesses.

3. Balanced Diet: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is essential for good health. The guidelines provide detailed recommendations for different age groups to ensure they get the nutrients they need.

4. Physical Activity and Hydration: In addition to dietary recommendations, the guidelines emphasize regular physical activity and adequate hydration as part of a healthy lifestyle.

The Role of Teflon and Its Alternatives: Teflon has been a game-changer in the kitchen, but it’s essential to use it responsibly. Here are some tips for using non-stick cookware safely:

1. Low to Medium Heat: Always cook on low to medium heat to prevent the Teflon from breaking down.

2. Use Appropriate Utensils: Avoid using metal utensils on non-stick pans, as they can scratch and damage the coating. Opt for wooden, silicone, or plastic utensils instead.

3. Avoid High Heat Cooking: For high-heat cooking methods like searing or frying, use stainless steel or cast iron cookware instead of non-stick pans.

4. Ventilate Your Kitchen: Ensure good ventilation in your kitchen while cooking, especially when using non-stick cookware. This helps dissipate any fumes that may be released.

5. Regular Inspection: Regularly inspect your non-stick pans for signs of wear and tear. If you notice any flaking or peeling, it’s time to replace the pan.

Alternatives to Teflon: If you’re concerned about the potential risks of Teflon, consider these alternative cookware options:

1. Ceramic Coated Pans: These pans offer a non-stick surface without the use of Teflon. They are typically free of PFAS and other harmful chemicals.

2. Stainless Steel: While not non-stick, stainless steel is durable and safe for high-heat cooking. Proper seasoning and use of oil can help prevent sticking.

3. Cast Iron: Cast iron pans, when properly seasoned, provide a natural non-stick surface and are excellent for high-heat cooking. They also add a small amount of iron to your food, which can be beneficial.

4. Anodized Aluminum: This type of cookware is treated to be harder and more durable than regular aluminum, providing a non-stick surface without Teflon.


Non-stick cookware, particularly those coated with Teflon, can be a convenient addition to your kitchen. However, it’s crucial to use them correctly to avoid exposure to harmful toxins. By following the ICMR guidelines and adopting healthy cooking practices, you can enjoy the benefits of non-stick cookware while ensuring your health and safety.

Remember to keep your non-stick cookware in good condition, avoid overheating, and consider safer alternatives if necessary. Alongside these practices, adhering to a balanced diet and maintaining an active lifestyle will contribute significantly to your overall health and well-being.

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About the Author


Sunny Parayan

Hey there! I'm Sunny, a passionate writer with a strong interest in the healthcare domain! When I'm not typing on my keyboard, I watch shows and listen to music. I hope that through my work, I can make a positive impact on people's lives by helping them live happier and healthier.

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