Dedicated to the safety and health of her family and others, Kristen Conn founded MightyNest to share her knowledge and educate others about simple ways they can create a safe, nontoxic home for their families.
After spending considerable time choosing organic produce and preparing nutritious food for our families, it can be pretty frustrating to learn that the products we are using to cook, bake, eat and store food with may actually put our families’ health at risk. Materials such as Teflon, BPA, lead, aluminum, phthalates and melamine are commonly found in everyday kitchenware products yet have been tied to disturbing health issues. The good news is there are many safer alternatives as well as things to avoid.
1. Avoid plastic whenever possible when it comes to food and beverage. Hard plastics can contain BPA, which is a developmental, neural and reproductive toxin. Scientists have linked very low doses of BPA exposure to cancers, impaired immune function, early onset of puberty, obesity, diabetes and hyperactivity. It can be transferred from plastic into food and drink. A recent study found that even BPA-free plastics contain synthetic chemicals which can migrate into food.
2. If you do use plastic in the kitchen, follow these plastic guidelines: Choose BPA-Free, PVC-free plastic labeled #2, #4 and #5. Do not heat plastic in the microwave (“microwave-safe” only means that the plastic won’t actually melt—the extreme heat of the oven will increase transference of chemicals.) Do not store fatty, greasy or acidic foods in plastic. Do not use scratched, badly worn or cloudy plastics for your food and beverages. Hand-wash plastics to avoid wear and tear. Avoid hard plastic melamine dishes. They are made by combining the chemical melamine with formaldehyde (which is a known human carcinogen). Studies have shown that formaldehyde can leach from dishware.
3. When it comes to food storage, safer materials include: glass, 304 grade stainless steel, food-grade silicone—all of which do not leach chemicals into your food.
4. When it comes to dishware, tempered glass is a great choice, followed by ceramic dishware with lead-free glaze. If you are concerned about breakage, food-grade silicone, high quality 304-grade stainless steel and bamboo containing food-safe finishes are all safe options.
5. Avoid conventional chemical nonstick coatings. They are manufactured using perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is considered “a likely human carcinogen.” When heated, cookware coated with Teflon and other nonstick surfaces emits fumes that can kill birds and potentially sicken people. Overheating of nonstick pans and any scratching or chipping of the materials can cause these chemicals to be released.
6. Avoid non-anodized aluminum cookware. Aluminum from pots and pans can migrate in measurable amounts into food. Aluminum has been linked to brain disorders as well as behavioral abnormalities and is considered a toxic substance by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. Many companies are switching from aluminum to anodized aluminum to create a more stable product. In this treatment, the aluminum is dipped into a chemical bath to create a more durable layer, so that the aluminum can’t as easily leach into food. But questions about aluminum in general remain. If the pan is scratched it can leach—so still not the safest choice.
7. The safest materials for cookware and bakeware include: glass, high quality 304 grade stainless steel, cast iron and lead-free ceramic cookware.
8. Use nontoxic cleaning products, avoiding bleach, ammonia and synthetic fragrances or dyes.
9. Filter tap water for drinking and cooking. Find a high-quality filter than can remove heavy metals, chlorine, VOCs and other contaminants.
Lastly, buy products from reputable manufacturers or individuals who can answer your questions. What tips do you have for creating a healthy kitchen?