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A lot of thought goes into the meals we prepare; from the shopping list to the dishes, we are mindful of what we put on our plates and in our bodies. But what if that is only half the battle? Chances are, like most people, you have some harmful cookware or other products with toxic substances lurking in the kitchen that can have a negative impact on your health. 

Luckily, replacing these products is easy enough. Take a look at our list of top products to replace immediately below.

Toxic Substances Hiding In Your Kitchen

Teflon Pan

Non-stick pans have gained huge popularity, and it’s easy to see why. They’re easy to use and convenient to clean. These non-stick surfaces and metal pans (like aluminum) are coated in a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon, a DuPont brand trademark [1].

Toxic substances are released from the pan via fumes when heated; DuPont has claimed that their Teflon coatings do not emit hazardous chemicals through normal use. In a press release, DuPont wrote that “significant decomposition of the coating will occur only when temperatures exceed about 660 degrees F (340 degrees C). These temperatures alone are well above the normal cooking range.” [2]

However, when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) put this to the test, they discovered that it only took 5 minutes for the Teflon pan to reach 721°F on a conventional, electric stove top. This test showed that the cookware exceeded these temperatures and turned toxic through the simple act of preheating a pan, on a burner set on high. At 680°F, Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses [2].

Another concern from using Teflon pans, or any coated non-stick pan, is polymer fume fever, or ‘Teflon Flu’. These toxic fumes that are released when the pan is heated, leading to flu-like symptoms in humans and are lethal to birds, killing millions of pets every year. The fumes cause the bird’s lungs to hemorrhage and build up fluid, leading to suffocation [2].

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Natural Alternatives to Teflon Non-Stick Pans

Avoiding teflon pans is easy, but if you already have them there are options you can use to replace them that work just as well, without the danger of inhaling toxic substances [3]. You can try stainless steel, which is a combination of metals. They are easy to clean and provide a non-stick surface when food is cooked at the proper temperature. You can also use cast iron; they are sturdy, last you a long time, and when well seasoned, provide a natural non-stick coating. Lastly, titanium cookware provides non-stick cooking options, but it is the most expensive of the options. These are just some of the safest cooking pans available.

Bleach

Bleach is a commonly used cleaning product because it is effective at disinfecting surfaces and killing germs, while being cost-effective. But is this household chemical worth the risk? Bleach is considered to be a chlorine-based corrosive substance, and the label should say as much [4]. Even when bleach has been diluted, it can still cause skin burns, irritation, and damage surfaces in your home. Bleach is most harmful to infants and young children because they are still developing and their immune systems cannot fight off the bleach vapours. The same can be said for pets, who are also affected by the fumes.

Exposure to bleach can cause irritation to the nose, eyes, skin, and lungs. More serious side effects of using bleach can include respiratory problems, skin burns, damage to the nervous system, asthma flares, extreme headaches, migraines, and vomiting [4]. Bleach fumes can make asthma worse in those who already have asthma. In fact, people who don’t have asthma and are in constant contact with bleach can develop asthma over time [5].

Natural Alternatives to Bleach

Luckily, there are some great, natural alternatives to bleach that you can use in your home to help clean and disinfect: baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and essential oils like tea tree or lemon. There are some great recipes you can use to make your very own homemade cleaner. However, the two most effective natural disinfectants are vinegar and hydrogen peroxide [6].

White vinegar, which can be found in almost any grocery store or supermarket, is a 5% acetic acid solution. It can kill up to 80% of germs found on surfaces in homes. Look for vinegar with a higher acetic acid concentration for more germ killing power. Hydrogen peroxide is made up of water and one extra hydrogen molecule. Unlike chlorine bleach, it breaks down into oxygen and water and doesn’t hurt the environment. On their own, these two products work great, but they work best as a one-two combo. Combining them directly will dilute their germ-killing power, but if you clean with vinegar first, followed by hydrogen peroxide, it’s more effective than just using one. It doesn’t matter which you use first, just make sure you let surfaces air-dry instead of wiping them down.

Plastic Wrap

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Another product that places convenience over health is plastic wrap. This clingy, clear plastic is used in the kitchen to help store foods and keep them fresh, but many people don’t know what goes into making it. When plastic wrap first hit the market, they were made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which contained phthalates. Phthalates disrupt hormones, and these compounds can leach into food wrapped in plastics made with them. But as of 2006, most plastic wraps are phthalate-free, but they are now made with low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or polyvinylidene (PVDC) [7].

Plastic wrap made with LDPE or PVDC don’t cling as well as the PVC variety, but what’s more troubling is the fact that LDPE may contain diethylhexyl adipate (DEHA), another potential endocrine disruptor that has been linked breast cancer in women and low sperm counts in men [7]. Since manufacturers aren’t required to list the chemical makeup of their products on the label, consumers are at a higher risk. DEHA can get into foods, particularly fatty foods like meats and cheeses. Chemicals can also leach into foods if they are warmed up with the plastic wrap.

The Best Alternative to Plastic Wrap: ETEE

Luckily, there’s a great alternative that is just as convenient without the danger of toxins leaching into your favorite foods. ETEE food wraps are reusable, natural wraps that can replace harmful cling wrap without missing a step.

These wraps are made of beeswax, coniferous tree resins, organic jojoba, cinnamon, clove oil, hemp and organic cotton. They are dyed using dyes that  are non toxic and free of heavy metals, AZOs and formaldehyde that are found in typical textile dyes. These wraps can be used for as long as 12 months, all the while keeping plastic out of landfills!

Plastic Containers

Plastic containers for food and plastic water bottles have long been under scrutiny about whether the toxic substances inside the plastic can move out into food or drink and if the levels of these chemicals could do us any harm. The two main culprits in plastic containers and bottles are phthalates and bisphenol A, more commonly known as BPA.

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Like phthalates, BPA is an endocrine disruptor [8]. It can imitate the body’s hormones, and it can interfere with the production, secretion, transport, action, function, and elimination of natural hormones. BPA can behave in a similar way to estrogen and other hormones in the human body. BPA has been linked to several endocrine disorders including female and male infertility, precocious puberty, hormone dependent tumours such as breast and prostate cancer and several metabolic disorders including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) [8].

Natural Alternatives to Plastic Containers

Luckily, it’s easy to cut out plastics from our daily routine. Instead of plastic containers, consider using glass or at the very least ensuring your containers are BPA-free as well as free from any other hidden toxins. As for plastic water bottles, there are so many options that are available – from glass to stainless steel – that it almost doesn’t make sense to use plastic. Switching over will save your body from harm, as well as help keep plastic out of landfills.

Aluminum Foil

Although aluminum is abundant in nature, aluminum accumulation is what can become a real hazard. In particular, aluminum has been suggested as a potential factor for Alzheimer’s disease. High levels of aluminum have been found in the brains of those who have Alzheimer’s [9]. But the exact role aluminum plays in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s is yet to be determined.

While the amount of aluminum from foil and aluminum kitchenware that can leach into your food is very small, it is better to be safe and exercise caution. If a safer alternative is available, why not use it? 

Natural Alternatives to Aluminum Foil 

You can replace aluminum foil in the kitchen quite easily. You can use parchment paper for lining trays and to tent foods to keep them warm. You can use glass or ceramic dishes when it comes to baking, and if you’re worried about grilling vegetables, there are many convenient grill baskets available that means you don’t need to rely on aluminum foil.

With these easy swaps you can make your home a much healthier place, free from hidden dangers.

  1. Tip 6 – Skip the non-stick to avoid the dangers of Teflon. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.ewg.org/research/healthy-home-tips/tip-6-skip-non-stick-avoid-dangers-teflon#.WhRTbbT81sM
  2. Canaries in the Kitchen. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.ewg.org/research/canaries-kitchen#.WhRcXLT81sM
  3. Fischer, F. (2017, October 03). Healthy Types of Metal for Cookware. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.livestrong.com/article/158539-healthy-types-of-metal-for-cookware/
  4. The Dangers of Bleach. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from http://www.ivlproducts.com/Health-Library/Health-Concerns/Healthy-Living/The-Dangers-of-Bleach/
  5. Green Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting: A Toolkit for Early Care and Education [PDF]. (n.d.). California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
  6. Non-toxic disinfecting. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/non-toxic-disinfecting/
  7. Is Plastic Wrap Safe? – Ask Dr. Weil. (2016, December 04). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/healthy-living/is-plastic-wrap-safe/
  8. Nordqvist, C. (2017, May 25). Bisphenol A: How does it affect our health? Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/221205.php
  9. Konieczna, A., Rutkowska, A., & Rachoń, D. (n.d.). Health risk of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25813067

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