Non-stick coatings can release toxic gases when pans are heated for cooking.
Green Queen: Teflon coatings present a sticky situation
It is amazing how many of the things that were sold to make our lives easier and more convenient over the years are emerging to be bad for us, the environment or both. It reminds me of that quote, "Life is simple, it's just not easy".
Keeping that in mind I have been trying to phase out anything "non-stick" from my kitchen, ever since reading about the industrial chemicals needed to make those fried eggs and pancakes slip off the pan.
Teflon is the brand name given by the patent holder DuPont to Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which contains a number of potentially toxic elements including the suspected carcinogen perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that at high enough temperatures - above 250°C, which can be reached in minutes on the hob - non-stick coatings can begin to change and release toxic gases. Birds have died from the gases released at 325°C. EWG has coaxed eight US companies, including DuPont, to stop using PFOA by 2015 and that is indication enough for me. I shudder to think what came off the cheap pans I had, ones where the coating had started to wear away.
There are alternatives, of course, although I have not yet found a counter-top grill. I hear great things about GreenPan, which uses a healthier "non-stick" option called Thermolon. For now I am working with a combination of stainless steel and cast iron, adjusting to the tendency of the stainless to get too hot, and the cast iron to be difficult to clean.