Cookware Health Concerns

Is Your Cookware Toxic?

While some people go out of their way to avoid air pollution, to buy healthy foods, and to use natural household cleaners, they may not be aware of chemicals they’re adding directly to their bodies every day through their cookware. We know our health is greatly influence by our food, but have you ever considered how your cookware is affecting your health? Damaging chemicals and heavy metals can enter the body by leaching into our food. What’s the point of buying healthy, chemical-free foods if we’re just going to cook them in pans which add poisons and toxins?

Non-Stick Cookware is Toxic…even the pricier brands

At normal heating temperatures, Teflon and other non-stick coating emit toxic gases and particles that can result in severe lung damage and death in birds, and can result in flu-like symptoms in humans, including sore throat, fever, chills, shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, malaise, headache and cough. Perfluoro-octanoic acid (PFOA), an ingredient of Teflon, is a suspected carcinogen now found in humans, other animals and plants in the US, Europe and Asia. PFOA is very persistent.

Released into the environment it looks as if it will take literally millions of years to biodegrade. Studies suggest that high PFOA blood levels in humans are linked with cancer, high cholesterol levels, thyroid disease and reduced fertility. Teflon surfaces break down and end up in your food and when heated to high temperatures, emit fumes which cause flu-like symptoms in humans (AKA: polymer fume fever) and can be fatal to birds. Manufacturers have to eliminate PFOA from all cooking products by the year 2015.

Could you or your child have the “Teflon Flu”?

According to Green Health Watch, “DuPont accepts that over-heated cookware with a Teflon coating releases tiny chemicals which penetrate deep into the lung and cause a ‘flu-like illness. Headaches, chills, backache and temperatures of 100-104°F usually last for two days. The true rates of ‘Teflon flu’ and the temperatures required to release the fumes which cause it have never been properly established. Teflon ‘flu rarely appears on doctors’ records because its symptoms are very similar to common ‘flu and awareness of a possible connection is extremely low.” (2)

Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware is the most porous of all cookware full of carcinogenic heated oils and bacteria. Some people believe that cast iron pots are a reliable and safe source of iron, but this is misinformation. Iron is best obtained in non-heme form from plant foods. Excessive iron is toxic to humans, because excess ferrous iron reacts with peroxides in the body, producing free radicals.

Enamel Cookware

Health concerns about using enamel cookware come from component in making them, such as lead and/or cadmium. Enamel is fused glass which contains cadmium…Boron and lead are used in making glass, enamel, and porcelain cookware. Lead gives these cookware pieces more shock resistance and color uniformity. Studies have shown lead, a heavy metal, if consumed can cause neurological damage, especially in young children.

Anodized Aluminum Cookware

The sale of aluminum cookware is prohibited in Germany, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Switzerland, Hungary and Brazil. Vegetables cooked in aluminum produce hydrozide poison, which neutralizes the digestive juices, robbing them of their value to digest food, producing stomach and gastrointestinal trouble, such as ulcers and colitis. Foods cooked in anodized aluminum can have the same result. Excess aluminum has been associated with estrogen-driven cancers and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Copper Cookware

Copper cookware is the choice of many because it conducts heat so well. Copper cookware releases copper into the food to be eaten and usually also has nickel in the coating, which is another toxic heavy metal and can be very allergenic. Don’t cook vegetables in copper or iron pots. Copper can kill vitamin C, vitamin E and folic acid.

Stainless Steel Cookware

Stainless steel cookware is made from a metal alloy consisting of mostly iron and chromium along with differing percentages of molybdenum, nickel, titanium, copper and vanadium. But even stainless steel allows other metals to leach into the foods. The principal elements in stainless that have negative effects on our health are iron, chromium and nickel.

“Most stainless steel cookware sold in stores is of such a nature as to allow chrome and nickel to bleed out into foods as water and food chemicals react with the walls of the vessels as they are heated. The chrome and nickel salts are retained when ingested. They cannot be eliminated. They build up and in time can create troublesome conditions”.(3) Basic stainless steel is rated 18/8 or 18/10, the percent of chrome and nickel added to the alloy. Like a pair of denim pants, they can be $30 or more than $500 for pair designer jeans, but the basic material, denim, or stainless steel, is the same. So it goes with stainless steel cookware, the percent of chrome and nickel is what makes it common stainless steel pots and pans or other stainless steel utensils in the kitchen.

Titanium & Surgical Steel Cookware

For cleanliness and safety reasons, food should be cooked on only Saladmaster’s 316Ti hypo-allergenic high-grade surgical stainless steel, extremely corrosion-resistant to salts and acids. The addition of titanium makes 316Ti surgical stainless steel supremely heat tolerant. Premium titanium cookware requires more investment but inferior cookware will cost you far more over time.

Test Your Cookware

If you’d like to test the level of chemicals or metals leaching from your cookware you can do a simple cookware toxicity pollution test as follows:

Add 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda to your pan and stir. Bring water to a boil for at least 1 minute. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) represents natural minerals found in all fruits and vegetables and is used to simulate a similar pH level often realized in cooking conditions. Allow the water-soda mixture to cool and taste a small sample.

Depending on which type of pan you are testing, you will taste all kinds of things from plastics to chemicals, to heavy metals. Some may even taste like you’ve just eaten a penny.

As a control, add mix the same amount of baking soda and water in a class and do not heat. Taste this sample to see how baking soda tastes alone (without the flavor of your pan).

3. Dr. Shelton’s Hygienic Review Division of Science, Engineering and Technology, The Pennsylvania State University at Erie, The Behrend College, 16563 Erie, Pennsylvania, USA)