Being proactive with your health means looking at things like toxic cookware and toxic cleaning products and their effects on the body and the bodies of those around you (including your pets!). Non-toxic living is about overall exposure so trying to make smart choices where possible can help your health journey and risk of toxic exposure. Cookware and cleaning products might seem like innocent bystanders but they’re not.
Non-stick cookware are often full of substances called ‘forever chemicals’. These are hazardous chemicals that fall into the categories of long and short chain PFA compounds (per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances) or PTFEs (most famously known for the coating on nonstick pans introduced by Teflon in the 1940s), among others. Forever chemicals get their name from staying in our bodies a very, very long time, months, even years and an FDA study showed that these chemicals actually accumulated in the fat, liver and plasma of rats and stayed there for over a year after exposure.
When heated at normal temperatures, PTFE coated cookware or PFA-pans can release various gasses, fumes and chemicals that present mild to severe toxicity to the body. This toxicity is increasingly being connected to a number of health risks in humans (and most likely your pets too). The US government has been voluntarily halting manufacturing PFAs into products over the last couple of years (particularly in plastics) but this doesn’t mean you are safe or they are no longer on the market or won’t be soon. Brands are moving towards claims of ‘non-stick’, PFA or PTFE-free but these can’t always be trusted and research has shown that many of these claims are false. PFAs also aren’t the only chemical of concern. Studies have shown that substances like aluminum, copper, cadmium, nickel, lead, BPA, polystyrene and BFRs can all impact biologically important functions in the body too, as well as posing a toxic threat. So, when shopping for cookware and to avoid potential toxicants leaching into your food, I would always advise cooking with a fully ceramic pan (most contain no metals like cadmium or lead), an uncoated pan or cookware made with carbon steel and cast iron.
Air fryers are an issue too. As a healthier alternative to traditional deep-frying, air fryers have taken off this year, creating a crispy texture similar to traditional frying but with little or no oil being used at all. As these increase in popularity due to the proposed health benefits, hundreds of companies are now creating their own versions and many are cheap, low quality and made from harmful materials, particularly on the non-stick-coated cooking baskets that are often made from PTFE.
Studies on the potential health effects of Teflon coated pans and air fryers show that exposure to the coating chemicals can be associated with fertility implications, hormonal interference, thyroid dysfunction, effects on the immune system, increased risk of blood pressure and pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, increased risk of kidney, breast and testicular cancers and even decreased vaccine response in children. Severe exposure can also lead to a rare disease known as Teflon Flu and studies show that exposure to Teflon can be severe and even fatal.
Brands are starting to use new chemicals known as Gen-X chemicals as a replacements for PFOAs and PFOs but these still haven’t been proven to be safe and studies are showing that they can be connected with health defects too, as well as already being connected to cancer.
So, how to avoid toxicants? If you are air frying, you must get a stainless steel or glass air fryer - this is non-negotiable - and if you are using traditional cookware, look closely at the substances the cookware is made with as well as claims made by the company. Some of my safer options are linked here for you.
Cleaning products are an issue too because toxins in cleaning products can impact not only you but also your children and pets too. The Environmental Working Group investigated 2000 cleaning supplies on the American market and concluded that many contain substances linked to serious health problems due to the toxic substances in their ingredient list - and it is likely that these will impact our furry friends too. Toxic exposure can result from inhalation of the products as well as exposure through touching surfaces (and licking the surfaces every time your pet eats something off the floor).
Research is showing that fumes from toxic cleaning products can also induce asthma in otherwise healthy individuals and many common cleaning ingredients can be laced with carcinogens like 1.4-dioxane as well as preservatives that release low levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde when used. Despite these concerns, and a 2010 study conducted by the New York State Department of Health that concluded that women who had cleaning jobs when they were pregnant had an elevated risk of birth defects, these substances stay in so many brand name cleaning products available on the market today. Again, finding truly non-toxic cleaning products is difficult when words like clean, green and natural are unregulated but using an app like EWG to check the ingredients is a great starting point. I have also linked some of the best investigations into non-toxic cleaning products here for you.
Knowledge is key here when it comes to being proactive with your health.You can’t always trust claims around non-toxic, clean or natural pots, pans, air fryers and cleaning products but safer alternatives and the EWG app is a great way to start on this journey, as well as sharing this blog with someone you love.
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST****