Xylan is a brand of nonstick coating often used in pots and pans to make them easier to clean and to decrease the amount of oil used in cooking. Similar to Dupont Teflon, Xylan can be found in a variety of cookware, making the cookware both nonstick and wear-resistant. Though undoubtedly useful for the home cook, there are potential dangers when using cookware containing a nonstick coating such as Xylan.
Good Housekeeping warns that high temperatures may cause nonstick coatings like Xylan to break down at the molecular level. This breakdown is not visible, but can cause potential problems. It is advised that nonstick pans should not be heated above 500 degrees Fahrenheit; above this, the nonstick coating begins to break down, becoming a possible health hazard. While many researchers claim it is unlikely for the home cook to use these pans in a manner that would create dangerous levels of toxicity, it has been found that it takes only a few minutes for cookware to reach 500 F or higher. Good Housekeeping suggests that home cooks never cook food on anything above medium heat. Never place an empty pan over heat, because it will allow the temperature of the pan to reach 500 degrees more quickly. Choose cookware that is heavy and high quality, since the flimsy pans on the market tend to heat more quickly.
When temperatures of nonstick pans reach over 600 degrees, they can begin to release toxic fumes, which can cause polymer fume fever. This temporary sickness creates symptoms similar to those of the common flu. While this illness is not particularly harmful to humans, it has been known to kill pet birds.
You may notice that at times the nonstick coating on your pan may flake off and get into your food. While Good Housekeeping insists that these small pieces of coating are not harmful, care should be taken to avoid ingesting food with nonstick coating. You can avoid scratching pans by using a wooden spoon or other soft utensil. Whichever utensil you choose, be careful not to scratch the bottom of your pan. In addition, hand wash cookware with nonstick coatings rather than washing them in the dishwasher, because this will further prevent chipping and extend the life of your cookware.