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Washington group advises how to choose toxic-free cookware

Posted by Safer States on Nov 14, 2008

toxic-free cookware It’s the season for turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie! Planning special meals and gatherings provides many opportunities to choose healthier products, like organic produce or seafood low in mercury and other toxic chemicals.

But did you know that your choice of kitchenware can also make a difference?

Toxic chemicals that may lurk in your kitchenware include Teflon chemicals, PVC plastic, and heavy metals. You can avoid these chemicals when you’re cooking with these tips from the Washington Toxics Coalition:

Resist the temptation of non-stick kitchenware, including pots, pans, bake ware, and utensils.

Teflon has revolutionized the modern kitchen, but it is made using chemicals (perfluorinated compounds) that are linked with cancer and reproductive problems and are long-lasting in our bodies and in the environment. When heated to above 450 degrees Fahrenheit some non-stick coatings release toxic gases that have been observed to kill pet birds. If you already have non-stick cookware where coatings are intact, be sure not to heat them above 450 degrees Fahrenheit. An empty pan sitting on the stove on high heat can reach this temperature, as can bakeware in a very hot oven. If you have non-stick cookware where the coating is coming off, throw it away.

Choose glass bakeware and pots and pans made of stainless steel or cast iron.

These materials are all free of toxic chemicals. Enameled pans are available, but we recommend cast iron because enamel may contain heavy metals. Aluminum pots and pans may cause aluminum to leach into food. The hazards of ingesting aluminum are disputed, but stainless steel is a safer choice. Stainless steel and glass mixing bowls are great too.

Avoid ceramic dishware that is cracked or chipping.

Glazes used in ceramic dishware often contain lead. The Food and Drug Administration limits the amount of lead that legally may leach out from glazes but does not limit total lead content of glazes. Since cracked or chipping glazes may be more likely to leach lead into foods and liquids, it’s worthwhile to be vigilant and avoid cracked or chipping ceramics. We believe that lead should not be used in any consumer products, but in the meantime, you can avoid lead in dishware by choosing undecorated glass dishware or lead-free tableware such as Macy’s Fiesta dishes.

Double check aprons, table cloths, and dish racks, which may contain vinyl.

Aprons and table cloths with shiny plastic coatings are often vinyl; check labels and avoid vinyl fabrics. Instead, choose cotton or coated cotton products. Also, avoid dish racks made of plastic-coated wire. Look for stainless steel dish racks, available at Target, Williams Sonoma, and Bed Bath and Beyond (brands include OXO, Polder, and simplehuman). Thankfully, vinyl is rarely used in materials used to cook or store food.

Happy Thanksgiving and safe cooking!