10 Common Kitchen Toxins Everyone Should Avoid: Part 2
Earlier, I shared a post with you on four toxic items found in the kitchen: plastics, toxic cookware, toxic water, and microwaves. If the kitchen is going to be the heart of our health and wellness journey, it can’t be filled with materials and chemicals that will cause things like cancer, asthma, or hormone disruption.
Real change starts by gaining awareness of hidden toxins under your sink, on your stove, and in your fridge.
Well, now I’m here with Part 2. I have six more commonly used kitchen items that can cause massive health disasters. I’m going to continue to show you exactly why these are a problem, how they can affect you, and what research has shown to be true.
I know I want my kitchen to be a place that nourishes my body and my family’s bodies. I want the food we eat to taste good, feel good, and actually stay safe. This is the information that has helped me get to that point, and I want you to have it too. So let’s dive back in.
5- CROCK POTS
Crock pots may be the convenient way for busy families to create homemade (and even healthy!) dinners throughout the week, but they can be the culprit of toxicity too.
Lead in the Glaze
The problem lies in the shine.
The ceramic portion of the crockpot – the area that touches the actual food – is glazed before it’s baked in a kiln. Sometimes those glazes contain lead. If the ceramic pot was baked long enough and at high enough temperatures, that lead may burn out. But if not, the lead can actually absorb or leach into your chicken dinner.
The foods/drinks that leach the most lead will be acidic, but nothing is really safe (1).
I’m sure we all know by now that lead is just about as bad as it can get, but here’s a reminder: The Environmental Working Group gives lead a toxicity score of 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 – which means it’s the absolute worst it could get. Lead has a high risk of developmental, reproductive, and other organ toxicity, it causes weight loss resistance and it’s possibly carcinogenic – among many other hazards (2).
The other issue with lead is that it’s very hard to chelate (or detox) from the body. It takes a strict protocol and a long time to heal from lead toxicity. We’ve helped so many clients detox from lead, mercury and other heavy metals and the best thing we can recommend is to stay away from potential lead exposures whenever you possibly can. It’s probably the most dangerous toxin we’ve discussed in this series so we can’t stress enough how important it is to get rid of any exposures ASAP.
If your crockpot doesn’t specifically tell you that it uses lead-free glaze (and provide some backup to that fact), assume that it does and avoid using it.
Then you have the issue of plastic crockpot liners. The idea of a liner is to make the meal quick and easy – no scrubbing, no mess. But we must go back to the dangers of plastics we covered in Part 1 of this kitchen toxin series. Here’s a short review:
- BPAs in plastics – at any level of exposure – are responsible for very serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, male and female infertility, ADHD, and much more.
- Non-BPA plastics – like those with BPS or TPP – can be equally as dangerous if not more dangerous than BPA
- Heating plastics makes those dangerous chemicals absorb into your food
Take that last point and think about what a plastic liner does all day when in the crockpot touching your food: it heats up slowly for somewhere around 6 to 8 hours. This means it’s leaching tons of chemicals into your dinner all day long.
These dangers are definitely not worth saving a few minutes scrubbing the pot post-dinner.
The lead issue with crockpot glazes doesn’t stop at crockpots. Any ceramic item in your kitchen could have the exact same health hazards described above. And many of us have quite a lot of ceramic in our kitchens – dishes, cups, mugs, serveware, etc.
The easiest fix is to, of course, not use these ceramics. But sentiment (like that beloved family heirloom) and affordability (like that “I can’t afford to replace my whole kitchen today”) sometimes make that hard to do. So let’s take it in steps.
The biggest problem is many times it’s not clear what type of glaze was used, lead-based or lead-free. Unless it is clearly marked on the packaging, it’s safer to assume there is a presence of lead.
But when you’re unsure, it can be helpful to know the few types of ceramics that are more likely to have lead than others. Lead will probably be in your:
- Traditional Asian dishes – these are often highly decorated
- Traditional Latin American terra cotta
- Antique tableware
- Any ceramic dish with a glaze that is clearly chalky-looking or corroded
If you end up keeping some of your glazed dishware that may have lead (or definitely has lead), here are some tips to limit lead exposure (3):
- Never cook it or microwave it: Heating up these items can cause more of the lead to leach into your food or drink.
- Never use it for food storage: Putting your leftovers on a lead glaze for a few days in the fridge will increase leaching.
- Never add acid: Both foods and drinks that are acidic will absorb the lead more quickly than other foods and drinks. So don’t put citrus fruits or acidic salad dressing on a glazed plate and don’t put coffee, tea, or alcohol into a glazed cup or mug.
- Never put it in the dishwasher: The dishwasher is nowhere near as gentle as your hands, so it can crack the glaze and increase lead exposure.
Or may we suggest a fabulously styled bookshelf complete with your grandmother’s gorgeous, yet entirely lead-based, dishes?
7- ALUMINUM FOIL
It’s probably safe to say that most people use aluminum foil for heating their food…placing it down over a cookie sheet to prevent sticking or wrapping it around a baked potato. But this habit is leading to too much aluminum exposure.
Studies have shown that using aluminum foil while preparing a meal can cause aluminum to leach into your food.
This process is made worse when you are cooking at high temperatures (which we often do!) and cooking with acidic food or spices (4, 5).
The amount of aluminum leaching greatly varies. One study tried cooking red meat in aluminum foil. They found the aluminum content went up by somewhere between 89% and 378% (even 89% is a cause for alarm!) (6).
So what’s the big deal about aluminum exposure anyway? First off, it’s not good for your brain.
- Studies have shown that too much aluminum can lead to brain diseases, specifically Alzheimer’s disease (7, 8, 9).
- There is also some evidence that aluminum can make inflammatory bowel disease worse (10, 11,12)
- It can also be harmful for the nervous system, as we discussed in Part 1 of this kitchen toxin series
The occasional use of aluminum foil shouldn’t cause you way too much alarm – research has shown that some exposure probably won’t have too many adverse effects. But if you are using it regularly, it’s time to explore different options.
And then if you find those great new options, you might as well use them 100% of the time and leave the tin foil behind.
If you are concerned about the impact of aluminum on your health, you can get heavy metal testing to detect the aluminum levels in your body. We actually offer this type of testing in our consultancy. You can simply apply for a consultation to learn more.
8- HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS AND FRAGRANCES
Why do you clean your home? Yes, I know most of us clean it because it feels good and happy to be in a freshly washed living space. But at the end of the day, the real reason we clean is to be healthy. We don’t want germs and grime in our homes.
The sad truth in this is that a lot of the cleaners we use to make our homes “healthy” are seriously toxic. Good intentions; bad results.
Many of the chemicals and fragrances found in common cleaning products are actually listed as toxic air contaminants (TACs) or as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) by the government (13). They can be:
- Asthma inducers
- Compounds that can be toxic to the reproductive system
- And more
It’s hard to believe that companies would knowingly put these substances into their products, but studies confirm that they absolutely do.
The Environmental Working Group has done a comprehensive report of 2,000 of the most common cleaners. Half didn’t present their ingredients fully (there’s normally a reason behind secrecy!), three-quarters had ingredients that caused respiratory issues, and one-quarter had carcinogenic ingredients (14).
Where Do These Toxins Hide?
We could obviously spend this entire article going over what types of toxic chemicals are in these cleaners and what specific harm they cause the body, but here is a short sample of hazards you probably already have in your kitchen.
- Antibacterial cleaners/soaps: Many of these cleaners include an actual pesticide to kill bacteria: triclosan. This substance can disrupt our hormones and cause cancer (15).
- Drain cleaners or oven cleaners: Many of these are extremely dangerous and poisonous. A common ingredient is sodium hydroxide, which can cause burns and long-lasting sore throats. You can also develop oven cleaner poisoning which affects airways, lungs, eyes, ears, nose, throat, stomach, intestines, heart, blood, and skin (16).
- Bleach: Most bleaches are a health nightmare that can cause asthma, burns, reproductive toxicity, organ damage, and possibly even cancer. On another level, they are also extremely harmful for the environment.
- “Fragrance” or “Surfactants”: One of the sneaky ways companies include these harmful ingredients into your products is with the general ingredients “fragrance” or “surfactant.” Many of these ingredients are toxic – some carcinogenic – and to avoid having you knowing about them, they dump them into that general category. There are actually quite a few sneaky “ingredients” like this hiding in your products, so watch out.
- Phthalates: These chemicals are in all sorts of kitchen products, including dish soap. They can disrupt the endocrine system (hormones) and can reduce sperm counts (15).
This issue doesn’t stop at cleaners. Scented candles and air fresheners are massive toxins too. In fact, on the Environmental Working Group’s review of the 285 most common air fresheners, 55.6% earned a health grade of D and another 18.9% earned a health grade of F (16).
9- CUTTING BOARDS
Think about many of the meals you cook at home. Most likely, a good majority of that food has touched a cutting board before it touched your plate. While most of us think about cutting board safety in terms of preventing food poisoning, many of us haven’t really thought about issues with the board itself.
Wood or Plastic?
The research on cutting boards is pretty clear: wood is safer than plastic.
This should not come as a surprise at this point in our article. We’ve gone through the comprehensive dangers of plastic in Part 1 and again in our crock pot section above. Plastics = big issues for our health.
It is possible for sharp knives to even cut away tiny pieces of the plastic, so it ends up in our food – this is especially true of those thin, flimsy plastic cutting boards.
On top of all these plastic problems we’ve discussed, plastic cutting boards have another unique toxin: tricolosan – that same pesticide that’s in antibacterial cleansers. Triclosan is often used to coat plastic cutting boards to make them “antimicrobial” or “antibacterial” (so watch out for those labels when choosing a board!)
In reality, what they’re really doing is disrupting hormones and encouraging drug-resistant bacteria to spread more wildly. This is even more important in pregnant/breastfeeding women as tricolosan has been found in breast milk (18).
Then there’s the issue of cleanliness and foodborne illness.
Some people are nervous that wooden cutting boards are not as sanitary as plastic – but the opposite is true. A study in the 90s showed that plastic cutting boards were twice as likely to get salmonella no matter how well and how regularly the board was cleaned (19).
A Word on Wood
Yet we still need to cut our food – so the best option is to choose a wooden cutting board. But don’t just choose any wood cutting board. Make sure the wood is untreated. If the wood has been treated, it can have all sorts of chemicals and solvents (20).
10- PROTEIN POWDERS AND SUPPLEMENTS
Finally, we get to protein powders and supplements. Here’s the interesting thing: if you’re taking a protein powder and supplements, you are probably at least somewhat interested in being healthy. You’re willing to spend your money to boost your health, but as we’re about to see, what you may be actually boosting is your heavy metal, titanium dioxide, or GMO intake.
Protein Powder Problems
Consumer Reports bought 15 different protein powders and tested them for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. These heavy metals can damage your organs or cause cancer, among countless other issues.
While some powders tested fine, others did have traces of these metals.
In fact, 3 of the 15 had levels that, if consumed daily, could lead to heavy metal exposure beyond the U.S Pharmacopeial Conventional’s set safety limit (by the way: the EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake, Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème, and Muscle Milk Nutritional Shake Chocolate were the offenders!) (21).
The majority of your minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients should be coming from your diet. Still, I really believe that the right supplement can be a big help to your overall health. They can help you overcome inefficiencies, build your immune system, and heal a leaky gut.
But we must choose our supplements wisely. Countless supplements have sketchy ingredients that cause more harm than good.
Last year, the FDA found over 560 supplements that were considered “tainted.” What’s scarier is many of these actually included ingredients that were not on the product label (22).
That means you may be getting genetically modified ingredients and/or there may be fillers like titanium oxide (a carcinogen), carrageenan (another carcinogen), and more of those heavy metals. They’re also often packed with hydrogenated oils – something you’d probably never allow in your food (23).
Since they’re not being labeled correctly, you may have absolutely no idea that dangerous ingredients like these and others are in these “health” supplements.
Then you have the popular “whole food vitamins.” While some of these are superior options to regular USP vitamins, some are not fully honest either – and are often less potent and more expensive than simply choosing a high-quality vitamin and taking it with a healthy meal (24).
Keeping Your Kitchen Safe, Healthy, and Toxin-Free
We started this series with the idea that awareness is the key to making sure health starts in the kitchen. Now that we have officially concluded Part 1 and Part 2 of toxic kitchen products, you should have a newfound sense of what products are harming you and your family members.
Maybe it all feels a bit overwhelming and scary. That’s okay. We’re only at step 1: gaining awareness. Step 2 is where the change comes in, and I’m going to help you with that as well. Keep checking back for our next series that will provide solutions for these toxic kitchen products.
In the meantime, let’s keep this conversation going. Which of these items are you using currently? Do you notice any associated health problems showing up in you or your family members? Have you removed any of these products from your kitchen? How do you feel about the microwave controversy? Leave your thoughts in a comment below.
- National Public Radio, (2017). Can Your Ceramic Cookware Give You Lead Poisoning? Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/12/08/563808879/can-your-ceramic-cookware-give-you-lead-poisoning
- Environmental Working Group. Lead. Retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/726334/LEAD/#.Wm3mQWbMwdU
- Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, (2018). Lead in ceramic crockery and pottery-making. Retrieved from: http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/chemicals-management/lead/lead-in-ceramic-crockery-pottery-making
- Soni, M. G., White, S. M., Flamm, W. G., & Burdock, G. A. (2001). Safety evaluation of dietary aluminum. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 33(1), 66-79.
5. Bassioni, G., Mohammed, F. S., Al Zubaidy, E., & Kobrsi, I. (2012). Risk assessment of using aluminum foil in food preparation. Int. J. Electrochem. Sci, 7(5), 4498-4509.
- Turhan, S. (2006). Aluminium contents in baked meats wrapped in aluminium foil. Meat science, 74(4), 644-647.
- Killin, L. O., Starr, J. M., Shiue, I. J., & Russ, T. C. (2016). Environmental risk factors for dementia: a systematic review. BMC geriatrics, 16(1), 175.
- Tomljenovic, L. (2011). Aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease: after a century of controversy, is there a plausible link?. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 23(4), 567-598.
- Boegman, R. J., & Bates, L. A. (1984). Neurotoxicity of aluminum. Canadian journal of physiology and pharmacology, 62(8), 1010-1014.
- 10.De Chambrun, G. P., Body-Malapel, M., Frey-Wagner, I., Djouina, M., Deknuydt, F., Atrott, K., & Kanneganti, T. D. (2014). Aluminum enhances inflammation and decreases mucosal healing in experimental colitis in mice. Mucosal immunology, 7(3), 589-601.
- Lerner, A. (2012). Aluminum as an adjuvant in Crohn’s disease induction. Lupus, 21(2), 231-238.
- Healthline, (2018). Is It Safe to Use Aluminum Foil in Cooking? Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/aluminum-foil-cooking#section3
- Nazaroff, W. W., & Weschler, C. J. (2004). Cleaning products and air fresheners: exposure to primary and secondary air pollutants. Atmospheric Environment, 38(18), 2841-2865.
- Kresser,Chris, (2017). Environmental Toxins: Steps for Decreasing Exposure and Increasing Detoxification. Retrieved from: https://chriskresser.com/environmental-toxins-steps-for-decreasing-exposure-and-increasing-detoxification/
- Sholl, Jessie. 8 Hidden Toxins: What’s Lurking in Your Cleaning Products? Experience Life. https://experiencelife.com/article/8-hidden-toxins-whats-lurking-in-your-cleaning-products/
- Medline Plus. Oven Cleaner Poisoning. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002800.htm
- Environmental Working Group. Air Fresheners. Retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/guides/categories/1-AirFresheners#.Wm36c2bMwdU
- Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, (2018). Triclosan. Retrieved from: http://saferchemicals.org/chemicals/triclosan/
- UC-Davis Food Saftety Laboratory, (1996). Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards. Retrieved from: http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/faculty/docliver/Research/cuttingboard.htm
- Building Green, (20120. The Toxic Chemicals that Lurk in Unfinished Wood Floors. Retrieved from: https://www.buildinggreen.com/news-article/toxic-chemicals-lurk-unfinished-wood-floors
- Consumer Reports, (2010). Health risks of protein drinks: You don’t need the extra protein or the heavy metals our tests found. Retrieved from: https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/04/protein-drinks/index.htm
- FDA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, (2017). Tainted Products Marketed as Dietary Supplements_CDER. Retrieved from: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/sda/sdnavigation.cfm?sd=tainted_supplements_cder
- Yigzaw, Erika. 5 DANGEROUS INGREDIENTS IN YOUR VITAMINS AND DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS. American College of Healthcare Sciences. http://info.achs.edu/blog/5-dangerous-ingredients-in-your-vitamins-and-dietary-supplements
- The Weston A. Price Foundation, (2002). Dietary Supplements: What the Industry does NOT want you to know. Retrieved from: https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/health-issues/dietary-supplements-what-the-industry-does-not-want-you-to-know/