They say health starts in the kitchen – and I really believe that’s true. For anyone on a journey toward wellness, the kitchen is where we make the food responsible for nourishing and healing our bodies. Which makes it all the more alarming to see just how many toxic kitchen products are lurking everywhere – from the board you use to cut your dinner to the serveware it goes on.
Ensuring that your kitchen really is the heart of your health journey starts by gaining awareness – what items have been shown scientifically to cause cancer, harm fertility, bring on asthma attacks, hurt the brain, etc.
That’s why I have gathered 10 of the most common (almost everyone has them!) toxic kitchen items I want you to know about. I’m not just going to tell you that they’re bad and you should get rid of them. I’m going to show you why they’re bad: what makes them harmful, what health problems they cause, and what scientific research has shown us.
There’s so much helpful information on the topic, I have broken this list down into two sections. Read on to learn about the first four kitchen toxins, and then check out Part 2 for the final six.
The first kitchen toxin is all that plastic: plastic containers, Ziploc bags, plastic wrap, plastic cups, baby bottles, etc.
Plastic is convenient. There’s nothing like tossing some leftover veggies in a plastic sandwich bag you will never have to clean. I get that. But I also get that there is no denying the science showing us time and time again that plastics are exceedingly harmful for our health.
… which brings us straight to BPAs, the nickname for the chemical compound Bisphenol A.
BPA is the substance that makes plastic both clear and hard…it is also the substance that makes plastic an endocrine disrupter, which means it acts like a hormone and throws your actual hormones off balance (12). Considering hormones control just about every single thing your body does, this is a real issue.
Serious health problems that have been scientifically associated with BPA are (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6):
- Insulin resistance
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Liver damage
Another significant problem of BPA exposure has to do with fertility in both men and women.
For men, BPA harms the sperm’s motility and can decrease their ability to fertilize and develop as an embryo (7). For women, BPA can throw the menstrual cycle out of whack, harm the reproductive organs, and even make it difficult for an embryo to implant in the uterus (8).
And here’s one of the scariest things of all: it’s not like you only need massive amounts of BPA exposure for these health problems to become a reality. Science is showing us that even very low doses of BPA cause harm (9).
Microwave + BPA = Disaster
When you microwave this BPA plastic, it all gets even worse. The chemicals in the plastic (including the phthalates that make plastic flexible) will actually leach into the food. This basically means that the chemicals move from the plastic into the food.
Even the FDA has agreed – for many years – that this is happening. Yet these plastics continue to be approved based on a system that estimates things like:
- How often they think you will eat from that plastic container
- How hot they think your food will get when you microwave it
- How long they think you will keep that container in the microwave
With those approximations, they then figure out how much of the harmful chemicals you will probably receive. If the answer is in their safe zone, that plastic product goes on the shelves with the label “microwave safe” (12).
Your BPA safety, then, comes down to a bunch of guesses.
Keep this in mind when it comes to plastic coffee makers as well. Consider how many times you heat that plastic. Many brands are now highlighting BPA-free plastic, but as we’re about to see, that may not mean much of anything.
Not Only BPA
Now if you’re thinking – “This doesn’t apply to me. I use BPA-free plastic solutions.” – I have some bad news.
- First of all, one study by Environmental Health discovered that basically all plastics, whether they were BPA-free or not, released chemicals into food that had estrogenic activity. For both women and men, this increases all sorts of reproductive and overall health problems (10).
- Next up, further studies have learned that BPA alternatives (like BPS or TPP) are either just as negative as BPA or possibly even worse than BPA (10,11).
At the end of the day, it’s not just BPA plastics that are the issue… it’s plastics. All of them. No good.
2- TOXIC COOKWARE
When we think about healthy living, most of us think first about food. This makes total sense. Food can be our medicine or our worst drug. But not nearly enough of us are actually thinking about how we cook that food – particularly what we use to cook that food.
You could eat all the Brussels sprouts in world, but if you’re cooking them in aluminum or Teflon cookware, you still could end up with horrific health problems. Let’s look at three types of harmful cookware that may be sitting in your kitchen right now.
Teflon is that super convenient substance making sure your food doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan when you’re cooking. But it’s been long known as a major hazard. In fact, the Environmental Working Group released a report detailing all the data that linked Teflon to these health concerns (13):
- Heart attack
- Cancer (in general, but also breast, testicular, and pancreatic specifically)
- Immune system damage
- Pituitary gland damage
According to the EPA’s standards, Teflon falls under the “likely human carcinogen” range (13).
The problem really comes from the chemicals that create the Teflon, particularly PFOA. Not only do these chemicals absorb into the food while you’re cooking, but they also get into the air as well. In fact, there have been many documented cases of birds dying when exposed to this airborne Teflon (14).
While aluminum cookware doesn’t have quite the extensive list of harmful possibilities like Teflon, it does run the risk of aluminum toxicity.
In the same way that dangerous chemicals from plastics or Teflon can leach into your food, so can aluminum – which is particularly harmful to the nervous system. Some have even made the connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease (15, 16).
Interestingly enough, some foods absorb more aluminum than others. The worst are your leafy greens and acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus, so absolutely avoid cooking those ingredients on an aluminum pan. Better yet, get rid of your aluminum pan altogether!
Dangers of Products from China/Asia
Here’s one more thought for you. While there hasn’t been much research done on cookware coming from China, there have been countless studies done on other products that come from China – everything from beauty and dog food to children’s toys and jewelry.
A 2009 congressional research service report showed how these unsafe products continually come from China (including really scary stuff like food and children’s toys) and would alter trade relations (17). NPR reported how products from China are responsible for over 60% of 2017’s product recalls (18).
All this to say, whenever possible stay away from cookware made in China. It’s really a safety choice. Sometimes it’s not always possible. But if you have to purchase cookware that’s made in China at least do so from a reputable manufacturer that’s known to produce high quality products. Not the quality that you would find in a flea market. When cookware has such an effect on what we are ingesting, you can’t be too cautious.
3- TOXIC WATER
Without fail, any doctor, health coach, or wellness blogger will tell you drinking more water is the key to solving health problems from beating fatigue to preventing kidney stones, and everything in between.
But not nearly enough attention is focused on what type of water we drink.
Most of us believe that since we live in a developed nation, our water is always perfectly fine. However, the sad truth is: toxic water’s often our reality.
And this isn’t just a problem for the water we drink – think about how often you come across water all day – from washing your hands or body to cleaning your vegetables or dishes.
Here’s why it can be a problem:
Prescription Drugs in Our Water
By far, one of the more pressing water concerns is the presence of prescription drugs in our water supply.
The culprit is normally our sewage. People often flush unused medications down the toilet, which adds heavy concentrations that sewage treatment is not always removing. Even the simple fact that we are a highly-medicated society who must go to the bathroom means our waste matter is going into sewage filled with our medications as well.
Drugs often found in treated tap water include (19,20, 21):
All these prescriptions are then getting into groundwater, rivers, lakes, etc. In fact, way back in 2000 a nationwide study found 80% of U.S. rivers and streams had low levels of pharmaceuticals. But even low levels can lead to health risks including hormone imbalance and antibiotic resistance, which the CDC has actually referred to as “one of the world’s most pressing health problems” (22).
This is such a dilemma that recent reports are showing certain species of fish are actually experiencing something called “feminization” – many male fish are now producing eggs – which is directly connected to hormone disrupting, estrogen-dominant pharmaceuticals in the water (21). Not only is this harming the future of their reproduction, but it’s also harming the fish’s health today (23).
What does this mean for you? The water you’re drinking is giving you doses of medications not prescribed to you that can cause you serious, long-term health problems.
Toxins in Our Water
Stories of toxic drinking water have made big news time and time again. Recently, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, reminded Americans that our water is not necessarily safe to drink. But many violations are going by without big news scandal. Here are some examples from 2015 (25):
- There were 10,261 violations for the presence of coliform, an organism that can kill kids, the elderly, or anyone whose immune system is compromised. For others, it can cause digestive issues and headaches. Those violations spanned across community water systems that serviced almost 18 million people. Only 8.8% of those violations ended in any sort of enforcement.
- There were 8,044 violations for presence of lead, which can cause brain and nervous system damage, miscarriage and fertility issues, weight loss resistance and a long list of other diseases. These violations affected over 18 million people. 12% of those violations received formal action.
- There were even 1,537 arsenic violations which affected nearly 2 million people. Arsenic is a well-known poisonous carcinogen that can also lead to lung and heart diseases. Only 28.9% of those cases had any sort of formal enforcement.
Sadly, the list goes on and on and includes disinfectants, nitrites, inorganic contaminants, volatile organic contaminants and more.
Fluoride in Our Water
The government adds fluoride to our water to help prevent tooth decay. The problem with this is fluoride toxicity has been connected with extremely negative consequences like cancer, arthritis, disruption to the immune system, increased lead absorption, and much more.
Though the U.S. government has recognized some of these health problems and lowered the amount of fluoride they add to the water, they are ignoring the problems still associated with lower levels of fluoridated water, like lowered IQ and ADHD (31).
Let me finish by mentioning the science behind fluoride actually preventing tooth decay is showing that…well…it doesn’t!
Chlorine in Our Water
And then we have chlorine. Chlorine is put in our water as a means to disinfect it, but it actually causes plenty of its own health problems, including (25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30):
- Fertility/birth problems
- Liver problems
- Weakened immune systems
- And more
Some studies show that when you are exposed to chlorine by your skin (think a shower, sink, or swimming pool), you are more likely to develop the associated health risks. So the solution can never be just filtering your drinking water.
The ideal solution is a whole house water filtration system. Whether you need a nice glass of ice water, or you need to wash your hands – you and your family are safe.
Best Water Filtration Systems
To help you combat this really alarming issues, I’m going to recommend two filtration systems
These filters range in price, size, and specifications, but work to help those with city water and well water get rid of all the water toxins in their entire homes including the sink, dishwasher, shower, laundry machine, etc.! These filtration systems remove all sorts of toxins – including chlorine – as well as bacteria, fungus, and algae.
While whole house filtration is the ultimate goal, things like price or apartment living can make it impossible. Your next best solution is the Aquatruwater. While most filters do just that…filter, the aquatruewater actually purifies the water and removes all these dangerous toxins.
Next up we have one of the more controversial items on our list: microwaves.
I’ll be honest with you. There’s research on both sides – some showing how microwaves are perfectly okay, and some showing they are harmful. Though, in my experience, the research tends to be pretty friendly toward microwaves, which honestly surprises me a bit.
I’ll show you both sides and allow you to make the choice that is best for you and your family.
Much research points to the idea that low levels of microwave exposure are not connected to health risks. In order to really have any issues, you’d need to be inside the microwave while it’s on (impossible) or within 2 inches (unlikely).
This means that the radiation from your cell phone is probably considerably more damaging than the radiation from your microwave – and many people sleep with their phones nearby (they shouldn’t).
But what about the food itself? Is it safe to eat post-microwave?
Well, the Scientific American reports there is no known nonthermal affect from microwaves on your food. The changes, then, are the same as if you were to heat it any other way (33).
Other research paints a slightly different picture.
One of the clearer, more well-documented cases against microwaves comes from the esteemed Dr. Mercola. He shares the findings of a doctor who has studied the biological damage of microwaves and concluded that microwave exposure can create harmful free radicals and lead to chronic disease (34).
And though most studies point to the nutrient loss as something similar to what you’d get with a conventional oven or a sauté, others say that antioxidants are more depleted. (To be fair, others say the microwave is actually better at maintaining certain nutrients) (35).
Should You, or Shouldn’t You?
All of this is fairly confusing.
In my household? We simply forego the microwave and use a toaster oven to heat things quickly. If the microwave issue is indeed real in any way, it’s less risk – and we find it to be just as convenient. As an added bonus, I believe most of us would agree that microwaved food doesn’t always taste nearly as good.
If you choose to keep your microwave, remember that microwaving plastic is always a problem. So keep it to glass only.
Keeping Your Kitchen Safe and Healthy
If the first step toward a safe and healthy kitchen is to grow your awareness, hopefully these first four toxins have taken you a step further down that road. But we don’t end here. Remember to read Toxic Kitchen Products: Part 2, which will dive into six more topics.
Before you click away, join the conversation. Are any of these four toxic kitchen products in your home now? Have you already removed any from your kitchen? Let us know in the comments below!
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