I’ve read conflicting reports about the dangers of non-stick cookware. I have a set of older non-stick pans and am not sure if I need to replace them. Are they harmful to use, particularly if they have a few scratches?
— Miriam Jones, Montgomery, AL

It may be time to upgrade your pans, given that the U.S. government has called for a complete phase-out of polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE, otherwise known as Teflon) and related products by 2015, due to health concerns. When Teflon is exposed to high heat it can degrade, which causes it to release its constituent chemical, PFOA, as a gas. This phenomenon can kill pet birds, and can’t be good for humans either.

While there are no known cases of airborne PFOA causing direct health problems for consumers, workers in plants where Teflon has been produced are at increased risk for cancers of the pancreas and the …