Updated: 20 Jan 2018, by Marc Woodard
Throughout the years toxic cookware products have fueled consumer safety and health risk concerns abroad. Although cookware technology has made great strides in decreasing health risk factors, those risks still exist in inferior cooking vessel products.
Cookware safety concerns stem from the fact metals and sealant toxins can be released and absorbed into the blood regardless of the advancement of cookware technologies.
Learn how to avoid unnecessary health risk through understanding the right tool for the job and identifying breached metal sealants.
For those unaware, most pots and pans have a protective HEAT barrier sealant which protects us from the reactive nature of metals. The bonding and sealant technologies used today can protect consumers from hazardous materials when used and cared for per manufacture instruction. However when unaware of quality cookware choice and sealant wear and tear signs… hazardous metals are more apt to absorb into foods using compromised cooking vessels.
“Unfortunately, both copper and aluminum react readily to foods. (Copper, when ingested in quantity or consistently can cause liver, stomach, and kidney problems as well as anemia. Also, aluminum has long been suspected of contributing to Alzheimer’s disease (Chu 2005).”
“The reason this became a concern is that large amounts of the material have been found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, which proves that aluminum crosses the blood/brain barrier. This does not establish a causal link, which would be needed to say definitively that aluminum in the brain causes Alzheimer’s disease.” However “Aluminum is on the 2007 list of top priority toxins in the United States (a list put out every year by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry), and aluminum has been clearly identified as a toxin for the human nervous system, immune system and genetic system (New 2015).”
Another concern with use of aluminum pots and pans is when treated with a Teflon sealant over the metal. Then that surface material becomes compromised.
There is a two-fold contaminant health risk factor with compromised cookware. A scratched or worn Teflon surface for example exposes the food to aluminum metal and continuous flaking of the sealant material.
The two-fold contaminant factor increases as cooking temps near 450 degrees and significantly increase when over 500 degrees. This produces toxic fumes and causes Teflon to bubble off metal pans with chemical flakes further contaminating the food. I tested the ‘450-500 degree premise’ by overheating a compromised Teflon pan.
I filled a compromised Teflon coated pan with water and heated it over a propane stove while camping to reach a high temp necessary to further destroy the seal. Once the water was 2/3 boiled out of the pan the Teflon began to flake into the water at 475-500 degrees. Within a short period of time 1/3 of the bottom pan was exposed aluminum with Teflon flakes floating in the water.
“Dupont, the inventor of Teflon, was sued for withholding safety information about the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in non-stick cookware.” “Studies which used animals as test subjects revealed that non-stick cookware “is more likely than not” related to, or a cause, or catalyst of the following medical problems: Children’s healthy development, risk of liver, pancreatic, testicular, and mammary gland tumors; Altered thyroid hormone regulation; generalized damage to the immune system; Reproductive problems and birth defects.”“Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are both fluoride compounds.” These hazardous chemicals are also known as PFC (perfluorinated compounds). “Fluoride is a poison that depresses the thyroid, which can cause hypothyroidism, particularly with repeated exposure. It accumulates in the bones, teeth, and pineal gland. It has been linked to brittle bone disease, and it causes cognitive problems. ‘The E.P.A. reported that PFOA accumulates inside humans for years, and it has been verified to produce cancers in laboratory tests (Corriher 2008).”
“EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) officials due to a growing body of evidence showing them to be highly toxic, extraordinarily persistent chemicals (some NEVER break down in the environment) that pervasively contaminate human blood and wildlife all over the globe. Recent research has shown that prenatal exposure to PFCs compromises early childhood immunity and that general exposure increases the risk of arthritis (EWG 2013).”
Healthier Cookware Choice
“Anodized Aluminum Cookware is a Safer Alternative to Teflon sealed pots and pans – These days, many health conscious cooks are turning to anodized aluminum cookware as a safer alternative. The electro-chemical anodizing process locks in the cookware’s base metal, aluminum, so that it can’t get into food (West 2016).”
For those that want to know more about the metal construction of your pots and pans selections, “Anodized’ means that a material such as the aluminum in cookware, has been subjected to an electrolytic process, where natural oxidation has been controlled. This involves immersing the aluminum in a chemical bath and applying an electrical current to it, causing oxide to be produced from the resulting rust on the aluminum. This layer of oxide hardens the aluminum and makes it resistant to corrosion.” “Which results in an even harder and more durable (cookware) coating (2014 Mifflin).”
“At the time of its founding, All-Clad distinguished itself from other cookware companies by using a patented “roll bonding” process by which metals are sandwiched together and then formed into a cooking vessel. The company derived its name from this cladding process, which is applied not only on the bottom but extends all the way up the sides of each cooking vessel (Wikepedia 2016).”
Copper Cookware is excellent for certain uses. Also it is not a health risk concern when selecting a durable sealant technology and when proper use and care is applied. Cookware “favored by chefs for sauces and sautés is copper, which excels at quick warm-ups and even heat distribution (West 2016). “Copper can be toxic when used on the inside of cookware, so it is usually reserved for use on the outside or with a lining of other materials.” Such as “Copper pots and pans are usually lined with tin or stainless steel so the consumer doesn’t need to be concerned with copper toxicity. Excellent heat conduction can be maintained through the lining (Carmichael 2015).”
“Stainless Steel Cookware Combines Different Metals – In fact, stainless steel is really a mixture of several different metals, including nickel, chromium and molybdenum, all of which can trickle into foods. However, unless your stainless steel cookware is dinged and pitted, the amount of metals likely to get into your food is negligible (West 2016).”
Be careful how you clean it though, as frequent use of abrasive materials can scratch through the protective stainless surface and release small amounts of chromium and nickel. Although stainless is very safe for most to use, “people with nickel allergies should avoid cooking with stainless steel cookware (EWG 2013).”
“Cast Iron Cookware may Actually Improve Health… and is known for its durability and even heat distribution. ‘Cast iron cookware can also help ensure that eaters in your house get enough iron—which the body needs to produce red blood cells. ‘Iron is considered a healthy food additive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”
“Consumers should beware, most cast iron cookware needs to be seasoned after each use and as such is not as worry-free as other alternatives. Lodge Manufacturing is a leading American producer of cast iron, enameled cast iron, seasoned and stainless steel cookware (Lodge 2016).”
Ceramic Cookware has the properties of cast iron. “Le Creuset with cast iron, stainless, copper and aluminum heat exchange interior to enamel coating does not appear to cause health risk with long term use (West 2016).”
“The Le Creuset foundry uses standard sand casting methods. After hand finishing, items are sprayed with at least two coats of enamel. The enamel becomes resistant to damage during normal use (Wikepedia 2016).”
I could not find much negative on Le Creuset. Only that it’s very expensive and a World chef Cuisine preference of cooking standards. The only negative was to ensure avoidance of chipping the enamel. The smooth and colorful enamel is dishwasher-friendly and somewhat non-stick, and covers the entire surface of cookware to minimize clean-up headaches.
“Glass Cookware. All glass is inert, nontoxic, and safe (except for lead crystal glassware, which – surprise – contains lead) (EWG 2013).”
Other Safety Cookware Tips
“Aside from glass, stainless steel, modern enamel (which is cadmium-free) and iron, there is anodized aluminum” which was discussed earlier. Although “Anodization is a process by which aluminum is treated with a nonreactive hard coating of aluminum called aluminum oxidation, which does not leach, but it might still be prudent to avoid storing tomato sauce and other acidic substances in any aluminum vessel. Care should also be taken to discard aluminum ware that is damaged in any way, which can happen even with the anodized version (New 2015).”
Throw away scratched Teflon cookware and any other type of badly worn, pitted or chipped pots and pans and replace with higher quality products. The first one I replaced was the Sautee pan.
I replaced it with two high quality pans of various size: One a stainless-clad, and the other a like-Le Creuset type – Stainless Ceramic. I discovered I liked them both and began purchasing similar quality products based on price to upgrade compromised cookware.
For me replacing the sauté pan was a priority because I used it a lot to cook my meals. Most can’t afford to replace high quality cookware all at once. My advice, replace poor quality cookware with high quality products during seasonal promotions, e.g., black Friday and Holiday season. In time you’ll have great quality kitchen ware at 20-50% off normal pricing. I’ve nearly replaced all my Teflon cookware with stainless, clad, enamel and ceramic pots and pans. I’ll never go back to Teflon sealed cookware.
“Avoid using metal or hard plastic utensils on cookware. These utensils can scratch surfaces and cause pots and pans to wear out faster. Use wood, bamboo or silicone instead (Wax 2015).”
“How to mitigate the possibility of ceramic lead absorption”
Protect your family from ceramic cookware containing lead and then potentially leaching into cooked and stored foods. “It is not uncommon for ceramic items used for cooking or simply for decoration to contain lead. In fact, lead has been used in the glazing process for ceramic dishes, bowls, pitchers, plates and other utensils for centuries. Typically, after being fired in a kiln, a piece of ceramic will appear smooth and shiny due to the lead in the glaze (Claire 2012).”
Cookware with lead: Safe use and risk factor awareness.
1) Acidic foods such as oranges, tomatoes, or foods containing vinegar will cause more lead to be leached from ceramic cookware than non-acidic foods like milk. 2) More lead will leach into hot liquids like coffee, tea, and soups than into cold beverages. 3) DO NOT use any dishware that has a dusty or chalky gray film on the glaze after it has been washed. 4) Some ceramic cookware should not be used to hold food. This includes items bought in another country or considered to be a craft, antique, or collectable. These pieces may not meet FDA specifications. 5) Test kits can detect high levels of lead in ceramic cookware, but lower levels may also be dangerous (Wax 2015).”
Now you’re armed with the most up-to-date kitchen cookware knowledge and can select the right tool for the job that puts your family’s health first.
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET. 2018 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @: www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for FREE Monthly eNewsletter.
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