Keeping chemicals out of your body is a full-time job. Even if you've opted out of a pesticide-saturated food system, you're not off scot-free: Kitchen products are rife with harmful substances.
Take the next step in making your cuisine chemical-free by following these five steps to detoxify your cooking space.
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Say No to Non-Stick Pans
Non-stick cookware might seem like the best thing since sliced bread, but quick clean-up might come at the cost of your health. Non-stick cookware often contains low levels of perfluorochemicals (PFCs)—man-made chemicals that have been linked to a slew of health problems. In lab studies, high doses of PFCs cause damage to the liver and other organs. Rats and mice exposed to PFCs while pregnant have exhibited developmental problems.
Like their uber-efficient relative the non-stick pan, plastic containers carry a cost for their convenience. Over time—or after exposure to high temperatures—chemicals from plastic storage receptacles can leach into the food they store. One chemical you should care about is iBisphenol A (BPA), a compound found in plastics. In studies with lab mice, exposure to BPA resulted in an increase in breast and prostate cancer, diabetes and changes in menstrual cycles.
Cling wrap doesn't fare any better. If you want to make sure your food only contains the ingredients you put in it, choose glassware to tote and store your edibles.
Photo: Getty Images/Simon Battensby
Reduce the Paper
Many kitchen paper products are bleached with chlorine. While there's a certain appeal to the bright white of a spanking new roll of paper towels, the bleaching process contributes to yucky chemicals ending up in our air and water (that's to say nothing of the number of trees that meet their maker for our cushy comfort).
Next time you're strolling the paper products aisle, look for products with a TCF (totally chlorine free) or PCF (processed chlorine-free) label. Even better, invest in a couple of tea towels. Your environment will thank you.
Photo: Getty Images/Bix Burkhart
Nix the Air Fresheners
Sure, it's nice to walk into a kitchen that's perpetually vanilla-scented. But that doesn't mean air fresheners are good for your health. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) sums up the problem with sweet smelling odor maskers that sugarcoat kitchens:
These products are specifically designed to mask odors by contaminating the air with numerous chemicals, exposing nearby people to a host of undisclosed, untested, and potentially toxic substances.
According to EWG, common ingredients in air fresheners include phthalates, which are linked to male reproductive system birth defects and hormone disruption, and synthetic musks, which are linked to allergies and hormone disruption.
What's a kitchen dweller to do? Start at the source: Make sure your kitchen's clean so there are no smells to suppress. Bonus points if you make your cleaning products from scratch with basic household ingredients.
Photo: Creative Commons
Looking to go big? If you're remodeling your kitchen, there are several ways to be chemical-free right off the bat. Mary Jane Derex, an interior designer who specializes in sustainability, stresses the importance of selecting kitchen appliances and cabinetry carefully.
When selecting cabinets, choose formaldehyde-free ones, she says. For a new stove, go electric so you're not breathing in gas fumes every time you fire it up. For your floors, opt for non-toxic, renewable surfaces; Derex suggests cork flooring. And when you finally select that perfect shade of paint for the kitchen walls, make sure it's low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds).