Cookware is a scary toxic minefield if you don't know what to look out for
Have you ever considered that your cookware may be lincreasing your possibilities of having cancer? Non-toxic cookware is a must to avoid toxins and chemicals that may be harming you.
Generations of fans are familiar with the famous I Love Lucy episode where she unknowingly hawks a healthy “vitamin” tonic that contains more alcohol than vitamins and becomes intoxicated right before our admiring eyes. It is a classic example of how we consume simple products that somehow seem good for us (or at the very least, convenient) but are ultimately the worst possible choice for our health.
We are surrounded by household products that we take for granted. That gorgeous serving dish that you used last night to hold the peas or the rice or the quinoa — is it totally safe? And what about the wok you used to stir-fry those luscious organic vegetables? Could harmful carcinogens be leaching out of it and into your body with each delicious bite?
Number one on the list of toxic cookware is anything coated with Teflon. Pefluorooanic (PFOA), aka C-8, the slippery chemical substance that is the main component of Teflon, was discovered by DuPont scientist Dr. Roy Plunkett in 1938 and trademarked as “Teflon” in 1944. In 1951, they began manufacturing PFOA in thermoplastics at their plant in Washington, West Virginia. It was approved for use in cookware by the FDA in 1962.
At the time, Teflon-laced cookware fit in perfectly with what Americans seemed to crave in the post-war era: ease and comfort. Everything about it was certainly easy — easy to clean, easy to cook with, and easy on the pocketbook. What more could a housewife want? Certainly not cancer. But as the popularity of Teflon skyrocketed, DuPont found itself defending the safety of a multi-billion dollar product that is used in everything from coating food wrappers and pizza boxes to fire retardant clothing, and even fabric and rug protectors, among other household items.
As for cookware, studies conducted by the Environmental Working Group prove that when used in high heat, Teflon pans release dangerous toxins that cause flu-like symptoms. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DuPont has withheld important information regarding the health hazards connected to Teflon. In 2005, the behemoth paid $16.5 million in penalties to the EPA due to repeated failure to comply with its legal duty to report health risk information associated with its chemical products.
PFOAs have shown up in blood samples from around the world; in fact, a survey by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2003 – 2004 found that 98 percent of the US population has “measurable” concentrations in their blood.
A report issued by the United Steelworkers International Union in 2005 paints an appallingly dismal picture of DuPont’s deceit, chronicling horrid, unsafe working conditions, employee health issues, water contamination in the surrounding areas of its plants, and the health toll on local residents.
Under the 2010/15 PFOA Stewardship Program DuPont promises to “work toward eliminating emissions and product content by 2015.” Yet in 1986, the Department of Energy revealed thousands of documents that prove DuPont secretly released radioactive iodine I-131, a known carcinogen, when it operated a nuclear plant in Hanford, Washington between 1942 and 1946. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against DuPont with claimants sighting leukemia, thyroid, colon, and stomach cancer due to exposure affecting nearly 14,000 local residents. Another in-house study hidden by DuPont revealed that two out of eight female workers at its Parksberg plant delivered children with birth defects after handling PFOAs. The EPA has concluded that PFOAs are “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” based on evaluation of cancer rates among DuPont workers who have suffered from all sorts of cancers. Over the years, multi-million dollar lawsuits and payouts by the company have become the norm.
Not Great Cookware
Here is the cookware to avoid for best health.
Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease for years according to popular thought, but is this just an urban legend? According to the national Alzheimer’s Association, “Studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s.” While this may be true, there is concern that “some aluminum is dissolved into food when you are cooking acidic foods like fruit and tomatoes or anything containing vinegar” in aluminum cookware that has not been anodized — a process that makes it impossible for leaching. So anodized aluminum cookware is the healthier (and more expensive) alternative.
Toxic or not? TOXIC! Recent studies have unequivocally linked BPA (Bisphenol A, a polycarbonate) found in plastic water bottles and tin can liners to unacceptable levels in the “umbilical cord blood” of pregnant women who expose their fetuses to this harmful “estrogen-like substance” “suspected of causing breast cancer, obesity, infertility, diabetes, etc.” BPA is not passed into the liver as previously thought, but absorbed “directly into the bloodstream” through the mouth. Yikes!
Don’t know about you but I’ve experienced a Pyrex dish exploding in my oven. Not fun. Why would a substance supposedly made to withstand high heat blow up? According to a Consumer Reports article published in December of 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) places the blame on the consumer for not following the proper labeling instructions.
Best Choices For Non-Toxic Cookware
Cast iron is a non-toxic cookware long been associated with great taste and reliability. They are easy to clean and can be virtually non-stick if seasoned properly. But are there any downsides to cooking with it? Cast iron can leach iron. Leaching from cast iron cookware creates numerous health concerns. Yes, you can increase your iron load by using this type of cookware; however, the health benefits are questionable because studies suggest too much iron can lead to cancer and other diseases. Anyone who has ever taken an iron supplement, tonic, or pill understands how difficult it can be to eliminate.
To avoid getting too much iron from your cast-iron pan avoid using it to simmer or boil, especially if your liquid is acidic, like tomato sauce. For frying an egg or some chicken, you’re not likely to have too much leaching. You can also avoid leaching by buying enameled cast iron Enameled Cast iron Cookware.
This ubiquitous non-toxic cookware is a mainstay in commercial and home settings all over the world. A composite of different metals, stainless steel has the potential to leach tiny amounts of nickel, chromium, molybdenum, titanium, and other metals, which can be problematic for those suffering from metal sensitivities. However, when used for short cooking times (not 3 day long broth, for example) there is very minimal leaching due to the stability of the metals.
This non-toxic cookware is amazing! When manufactured in the U.S. or Canada, stoneware is incredibly safe (no leaching) and works wonderfully for so many uses, including boiling and simmering. Once seasoned it becomes virtually non-stick, making it great for eggs too. Stoneware can be heavy and may chip so be careful with your stoneware.
Ceramic is a great non-toxic cookware for most occasions. However, recent studies have confirmed that the lead content found in ceramic serving dishes manufactured overseas (Mexico and China in particular) is alarmingly high, and that leaching levels are unacceptable. The solution? According to Food Safety News, make sure your ceramics are “heated at very high temperatures for a long enough period of time” to keep lead from leaching. Better yet, if you choose ceramics made in the U.S. or Canada you avoid this problem all together.
“Non-toxic” and “green” ceramic cookware is now a well-researched alternative to everything else mentioned. New technology insures against toxic fumes and leaching.
Non-Toxic Cookware: Shop Wisely
Unfortunately, in today’s bottom line mentality of making a profit, choosing cookware comes with warning signs about Teflon, BPA, lead, and metal toxicity. It is now more important than ever to take matters into our own hands and do our due diligence in finding products that are completely safe for our health and environment. It just makes sense.
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