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I was boiling something and I left them on the stove for about 1 hour. The pan was full and starting to boil at the start of the time, and when I got down and realised it was totally empty. The gas was on full heat, and since it's gas it does get really quite hot. There is still fumes 3hrs later - I don't think the brand was Teflon, but would it still have been using the same material? And basically, should I be worried, or is most of the internet stuff mostly scaremongering?

Hope this isn't too off-topic!

  • There's no reason to panic. Yes, if you heat teflon (or other non-stick coatings) above 500F or so, it will cause them to degrade. You've likely ruined the pan. But otherwise just open some windows and get rid of the odor (also burnt eggs or just burnt pan?). Anyhow, yes, it's possible that teflon can degrade into some nasty things under extremely unusual conditions (like sticking it into a furnace over 1000F), and that's where the "scaremongering" comes from. But in a gradual rise in temp on a kitchen stove, it will degrade into harmless inert components that pose little safety risk. – Athanasius May 22 '15 at 20:54
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    Unfortunately... it might be off-topic as written. From what I can tell you're asking about the health effects of exposing the non-stick material to high temperatures, and most types of health questions are off-topic here. (We're amateur cooks, not doctors.) Besides which, as you've seen, there's a lot of hyperbole and debate out there about these health impacts even among experts. – logophobe May 22 '15 at 20:55
  • (I should clarify that I meant little significant safety risk... as Ross Ridge's answer points out, there is the possibility of something some people call "teflon flu," which is mostly due to temporary respiratory irritation. That's why I recommended ventilation. You'd likely get similar symptoms from inhaling smoke if you heated most foods in your kitchen to similar temperatures.) – Athanasius May 22 '15 at 21:24
  • Hello Johnny, I'm afraid Logophobe is right. We don't take questions on health issues beyond standard food safety ("how do I process X so I don't get food poisoning"). I hope you will be OK - if you are still concerned, a doctor can help you better than we could. – rumtscho May 23 '15 at 11:15
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When heated to a high enough temperature (260C - 350C) Teflon (polytetrafluoroethylene) degrades into fumes that can cause flu-like symptoms. If you haven't experienced these symptoms and have aired out the room you should be fine. Even if you had these symptoms, they should clear up by themselves fairly quickly.

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