Chemical Chaos: What’s in your cookware?


Our environments are full of toxins. Exposure to these toxins is bad for our health. Though certain chemicals are disease causing, they continue to be used and distributed.

Below I highlight the most common cookware and their safety profile. I went through my pot and pan collection, and I too, have chemical-laden cookware that I will be exchanging out. My hope is that you will be inspired to make healthy choices for your own kitchen.

Avoid non-stick pans

Non-stick pans are everywhere in our kitchens despite being coated in chemicals like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE); commonly referred to as Teflon. An estimated 98 percent of Americans have PFOA in their blood. There is a connection between PFOA and kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and pregnancy-induced hypertension (1).  

When heated, cookware with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces emits fumes that can kill birds and sicken people (2). Unfortunately, in 2001 90 percent of all aluminum cookware sold in the US was coated with non-stick chemicals like Teflon (3). If you can afford to replace your non-stick cookware, do so. But if you cannot replace them right away, you can reduce the possibility of toxic fumes by never heating an empty non-stick pan, avoiding ovens hotter than 500 degrees F and using an exhaust fan.

Avoid aluminum cookware

Aluminum is the most abundant metal on Earth that is toxic to our nervous system and it has been proposed to be a player in Alzheimer’s disease; the most prevalent neurodegenerative disease of the elderly (4). Food cooked in aluminum pans have been shown to contain the toxic metal from leakage into the food (5).

Use cast iron

This is the safest cooking option available because it is free of PFOA and PTFE. Iron does get into your food, and unless you have excess iron, this is actually a health benefit. These pans can last generations and get better with usage.

Buy high quality stainless-steel

Stainless-steel is made from a mix of metals such as iron, chromium, nickel, manganese and/or carbon. Make sure that you are buying food-grade stainless-steel designated: 304, 316 and 430. There is also the specifications: 18/8, 18/10, or 18/0 stainless-steel. The first number is the percentage of chromium and the second is the amount of nickel. Nickel is implicated in numerous health problems, notably allergic contact dermatitis and should be avoided by nickel-sensitive patients (6). Avoid cleaning with abrasive materials to avoid damage to the pan. The pan is no longer safe once it is damaged.

Take a moment and look through your cookware. Dispose of any damaged, non-stick and aluminum items and cook with caution to not overheat or scrape the surface. Don’t be cheap when it comes to cookware and stock your kitchen with cast iron, food grade stainless-steel and glass. There ARE other safe cookware options out there; connect with the manufacturer if you have any questions regarding the contents of their products