There are hidden health dangers lurking in your kitchen—and it’s not the germy sponges or moldy foods. It’s the toxic cookware in your cabinet.
Certain kinds of kitchenware could be discharging toxic fumes and chemicals into your food. Over time these foreign substances can build up in your body, potentially damaging your health.
Keri Glassman, a certified nutritionist and founder of Nutritious Life in New York City, says there are safe alternatives to avoid these potential risks.
“It's important for people to know the risks, because just like picking out healthy food in the grocery store, consumers should and do have choices,” Glassman told FoxNews.com.
Pots and pans
Nonstick pans are one of America’s favorite cooking tools; they are easy to use and clean, and they don’t require a lot of oil to grease the surface.
As popular as these convenient pans are, many Americans are unaware about the toxic coating that forms the nonstick surface.
Teflon, also known as PTFE, is a brand name for the special coating on nonstick pans. When these pans are overheated or left on the stove too long, the PTFE sometimes releases toxic fumes, which studies have shown can cause flu-like symptoms in humans and can be fatal to birds.
Nonstick cookware can also leach another toxic element directly into your food. The chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is used in the making of PTFE, has been denounced by many experts for its carcinogenic properties. Additionally, some research has shown that the chemical can increase the risk of high cholesterol levels, thyroid disease and infertility.
Some experts argue that the amount of harmful chemicals and fumes from nonstick pans are not enough to make you seriously ill. According to their regulations, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states PTFE as a coating is safe when used properly. But scientists are still indefinite on just how dangerous PFOA is to our health and more conclusive research is needed.
Instead of rolling the dice and waiting for more concrete evidence, Glassman suggests users should err on the side of caution.
“Although these chemicals in nonstick surfaces are in very small amounts, they do still stay in our bodies. And that’s not to scare people, you are getting a teeny bit in there. But when there are other great options out there, you have a choice,” Glassman told FoxNews.com.
Safe alternative: Cast iron
Cast-iron cookware is an old-fashioned favorite, and one of the safest cooking options available.
PTFE- and PFOA-free, cast-iron cookware have no added chemicals. In fact, the only thing that may leach into your food is the mineral iron.
“You’re not going to get those chemicals in your food with cast iron. What you will get, even if you scrape it at the bottom a bit, is a little bit of iron, which is a good thing!” Glassman said.
Unlike nonstick pans, cast-iron pots and pans have no heat limitations and can go from the stovetop right into any oven or grill.
A favorite pick, is the popular brand, Le Creuset. The French company has been making premium enameled cast-iron cookware since 1925 and prides itself on its superior performance and lasting quality.
Safe alternative: Stainless steel
Stainless steel cookware is considered to be another safe choice.
This cookware gets its name because of its ability to resist corrosion. The surface of stainless steel does not flake, so pieces of the material do not break off and contaminate your food like with most non-stick cookware.
Stainless steel is a combination of metals, including carbon, chromium, nickel and/or manganese. Because stainless steel contains a mix of these metals, some lower quality stainless steel cookware may discharge a small amount of nickel into your food from the steel.
However, if you purchase high-quality cookware, like a Gunter Wilhelm set, these products contain a much smaller amount of cheap metal fillers like nickel.
High-quality stainless steel is designed to make products resistant to leaching or reactivity.
The outside layer of Gunter Wilhelm cookware is made from type 430 stainless steel. This kind of stainless steel material contains a minute amount of nickel (0.50 percent or less). So if you are a little wary about the nickel content in some stainless steel cookware, Gunter Wilhelm is a safe and healthy choice.
It’s easy to hoard plastic take-out containers when you don’t know the real dangers pertaining to plastic.
Plastics contain chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and phthalates that can get into your food.
“We know that plastics with BPA have been linked to cancer, [poor] brain health, and [poor] heart health, so we really want to be careful and get everything with BPA out of our kitchen. And we certainly don’t want to microwave with it. When you microwave your food in plastic, the high heat really increases the release of those chemicals,” Glassman warned.
Leaching can also escalate whenever plastic touches acidic, fatty or salty foods.
Safe alternative: Glass containers
Take a rain check on your Tupperware parties and invest in some durable glass food containers.
Glass containers are considered the safest option, as they do not leach any chemicals into your food and are microwave safe.
“Glass recycling is also more environmentally friendly, and it lasts longer, so it will save you money over time,” Glassman said.
GlasLife by Tribest is just one of the many great brands that produce safe and affordable glass containers. They can be used to bake and store foods, as well as reheat leftovers. The plastic lids are BPA-free and have airtight seals to lock in freshness and keep pollutants away from your food.
Although there is some debate on which types of cutting boards are better and more hygienic, plastic cutting boards are not the safest option.
After all the slicing and dicing work done on a plastic cutting board, you will inevitably see little cuts and nicks across the surface. Those plastic cracks and crevices just happen to be the perfect home for dangerous bacteria to live in.
“Those ridges your knife leaves you with are going to collect bacteria. People think that with plastic, you can just wipe the bacteria right off, but actually things like E.coli and salmonella are going to stick to the plastic more so than wood or bamboo,” Glassman explained.
Another drawback is the plastic BPA factor. The bits of plastic that come from those small knife scratches have to go somewhere – and that somewhere is in the food you’re chopping.
Safe alternative: Bamboo and wood
The best wooden cutting boards are made from bamboo, but any wood board is still better than plastic.
Bamboo and hard wood have natural antibacterial properties. Although the knife cuts on these boards still provide a place for bacteria to hide, once the bacteria goes down into the crevice they die off slowly.
Totally Bamboo is a highly recommended brand for bamboo boards. The company uses premium grade all natural bamboo and non-toxic formaldehyde free food grade glue to ensure the utmost safety to their consumers.
An extra bonus with bamboo: It is a 100 percent renewable resource (bamboo grows back and can be re-harvested every 4 1/2 years) making it a great choice for the eco-conscious as well.