Kitchen Toxins You Need to Know About
by DK Kara MD on Nov 16, 2021
“A woman’s place is in the kitchen.” How many times have you heard that before?
Society has come a long way. Now, both men and women enjoy the pleasure and responsibility of seeing the kitchen as their domain, especially if they like to cook.
While the above phrase may trigger a variety of emotions, there’s another type of trigger you might not have thought about: health triggers.
Your kitchen is probably one of the most visited rooms in your house. That’s where your food is kept, along with things you need for cooking, eating, and storing leftovers. And if you’re on the journey towards a healthier life, you already know there are probably things you own that might be considered “toxic”.
The bathroom or garage, sure. But in the kitchen? Most definitely.
Toxins can be sneaky, which is why some of the items below might take you by surprise. Here are some of the kitchen toxins you need to know about, along with natural alternatives:
They say “cleanliness is next to godliness”. Whether that’s true or not, it’s definitely linked to better health. Using a multi-purpose cleaner seems to be the answer to all your problems… or is it?
Standard over-the-counter cleaners often come packed with chemicals, not all of which are good. 2-Butoxyethanol is a glycol ether that can cause mild issues like skin or throat irritations, to more severe health complications like kidney or liver damage (8).
Alternative: What can you use to clean surfaces that won’t harm your organs? You can actually make your own cleaner using a combination of vinegar, water, and essential oils (9).
Plastic storage containers
Modern technology has allowed us a way to harness liquid petroleum and turn it into a solid. One of these by-products are the plastics we’ve come to know and love.
But plastics have been found to contain what’s called BPAs. These chemical compounds can disrupt normal hormone function, and can even contribute to brain abnormalities in developing fetuses (11).
Alternative: Glass, ceramic stainless steel, and silicone containers are great alternatives to plastics. You may be able to find sets in different sizes, which makes matching lids and bottoms helpful (10).
When you need to put food away, reaching for the tin foil might be second nature. But aluminum has the potential to leech into your foods,if you’re storing citrus, tomatoes, or other acidic items (3).
Why is aluminum harmful? Heavy exposure can have negative effects on your neurological system, and diseases like dementia seem to be linked to aluminum toxicity (4).
Alternative: Covering your leftovers helps keep your food from absorbing weight smells and tastes. Instead of aluminum, try silicone or beeswax food covers. You can also opt for glassware.
Known for its whitening and disinfecting properties, bleach is a popular household cleaner that’s been used for decades. So why does it make the list of kitchen toxins?
While bleach does a great job of killing things like mold, bacteria and viruses, it can also corrode certain surfaces due to the chlorine aspect. One drop in a gallon of water is considered safe to drink, but concentrations higher than 5% can burn your skin and throat.
The biggest danger comes from fumes. If you mix bleach with other household cleaners, such as ammonia, the chemical reaction creates a toxic gas that can kill you if inhaled (6).
Alternative: Hydrogen peroxide does a fine job taking stains out and brightening things like clothing. It also works as a great surface disinfectant, breaking down viral components and deactivating microorganisms (7).
It’s a pain when you’re trying to cook a dish, and pieces keep getting stuck to the pan. The non-stick cooking pan was a creative solution that helps make clean-ups a snap.
So what makes them toxic? Non-sticks are coated with a chemical called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon. When pans are used at high temperatures, this chemical gives off a gas than can be harmful (14).
Alternative: If the idea of chemicals while you cook makes you pause, consider switching your pans out for ones made of carbon steel or cast iron (15).
Some people like gas over electricity when it comes to kitchen appliances. The biggest concern here is the presence of compounds that may not be good to inhale in heavy concentrations.
Formaldehyde is one of those gases, contributing to air pollution and making some respiratory conditions worse. With that in mind, some experts say you have a greater chance of getting it in your system through your food than through your gas stove (2).
Best practice encourages that you use your exhaust vent when cooking, and to make sure your carbon monoxide detector is working. Also, don’t use your gas stove to keep you warm in winter.
Alternative: If you want to forego this altogether, using an electric stovetop might be a good option. You could also use a wood stove, although that may be best in survival situations only.
Ever heard of phthalates? They’re a group of chemicals that are used to make plastics stronger. Others can be used to break down particles, and are used in lots of different cleaning products, including… yep, you guessed it. Dish soap.
Research suggests that phthalates can be harmful to reproductive health (12).
Alternative: The dishes need to be cleaned, so what can you use? Look for options that are phthalate-free. Some natural options include baking soda, vinegar, washing powder, borax, or castile soap (13).
Plastic cutting board
Having a cutting board comes in handy, and a thick, sturdy plastic one should be fine, right? Aside from the other potential hazards of BPA plastics, the grooves created by sharp knives have the potential to host bacteria. If not properly washed, using them could make you sick.
Alternative: Ready to ditch your toxic hotel of a cutting board? Replace it with a beech wood or maple cutting board. These wood varieties are easier on your knife, and can actually reduce bacteria growth by being groove resistant (5).
If you’re going to spend a lot of time in your kitchen, you’ll want to make sure it’s as healthy an environment as can be. Part of that might mean taking inventory of your current cleaning and cooking items.
While there are kitchen toxins you need to know about, it’s not hard to find alternatives. From plastic storage containers to cleaning products, some items pose a bigger risk than others. But having this information can give you the tools you need to make changes that will result in a healthier, happier you.
Do you know someone who would benefit from this list? Be sure to share it with them!
References & Disclaimers✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author