I must admit that I am a little confused as to what you were doing to fuse barley to a non-stick pan ... roasting dry barley, something with a wet batter, etc ... but regardless of what you were doing you definitely got the pan too hot! Non-stick cookware should never be used on a burner turned up more than MEDIUM ... and definitely should not be pre-heated empty for more than about 30-seconds. Once the surface of the pan heats up more than 450-F (some studies say 446-F) it begins to give of toxic fumes from perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) - also known as C8. The higher the temp, the more chemical fumes are released - at least 2 are known carcinogens.
Yes - cheap thin cookware will heat faster than thicker cookware ... but that has nothing to do with the non-stick coating - it has to do with the mass of metal being heated.
Ever look at the instructions that come with non-stick cookware? Ever wonder why the instructions say to only use over MED heat and not put under the broiler, and only safe up to 450-F in the oven?
Originally Posted by GB
To my knowledge no human has ever been affected.
While it is true that small birds are affected first - children and adults can have problems, too. While I haven't run across any studies that link cooking in
non-stick to the illness - breathing the fumes has been documented in several studies ... the symptoms are similar to a viral flu that can last up to about 48-hours. In medical literature it is most often referred to as "Teflon Flu" - it is also known as "polymer fume fever".
Of course - cookware is not the only culprit! Things like installing new synthetic-fiber carpets, or spaying Scotchguard on something, can also expose you to some of the same type of fumes released from overheating non-stick cookware.
You can find more info if you google on teflon flu
is a good site ... as are the sites listed by JGDean.
I, personally, don't think there is much of a health risk if you treat your non-stick with care - such as never over-heating it.