Kitchen safety: Eliminating household toxins

Every single day you may be inhaling or ingesting toxic chemicals right in your very own kitchen…from things like your household cleaners, non-stick cookware, food containers and dishware.

Choose Safe Household Cleaners

Don't make the assumption that if it's on the grocery shelf it's been tested and is safe. Most of us, unwittingly, buy products for our home with ingredients that are either poorly studied, not studied at all, or are known to pose potentially serious health risks. Of the roughly 17,000 chemicals found in common household products, only 3 in 10 have been tested for their effects on human health. Why? Because, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission does not require manufacturers to test household cleaning products before they appear on store shelves.

So, if you're reading labels expecting to get the whole picture, know that they provide only limited information. According to the Children's Health Environmental Coalition, a national nonprofit that educates the public on environmental toxins that affect children's health, labels often omit inert ingredients that can make up as much as 90 percent of a product's volume.

Now, the word "inert" doesn't mean inactive or neutral as you might believe. The EPA categorized "inert" ingredients as causing long-term health damage and harm to the environment. These ingredients include solvents, dispersal agents, dyes and fragrances, some of which can pollute the air and water. Other ingredients that are not mentioned can be carcinogens or worsen health problems like allergies and asthma.

Solution: Make your own. Try hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and baking soda as alternatives.

Avoid Non-stick Cookware

The next time you find yourself standing in front of your stove, about to make a meal, think twice about using that nonstick pan. A surprising source of air pollution in your kitchen is coming from your non-stick pots and pans. When heated, they don't give off an odor so you may not think they are a problem, but they can be.

Each time you use medium to high heat on an empty pan, the surface on most nonstick cookware breaks apart and emits a toxic chemical called PFOA. Animal studies strongly suggest that when enough PFOA builds up in the body, it can cause cancer, liver damage, growth defects, and immune-system damage.

Solution: Toss the Non-Stick. Check out the new non-toxic non-stick cookware lines or consider stainless steel, cast iron, ceramic titanium and porcelain enameled cast iron.

If you can't bring yourself to toss out every piece of non-stick-coated cookware in your kitchen, at least manage your use of it by making sure your kitchen is well-ventilated, and never preheat on high or leave nonstick pans unattended on an open flame or other heat source. Don't use metal utensils that can scratch the coating and release PFOA into your food. Wash by hand using nonabrasive cleaners and sponges (no steel wool) and don't stack on top of each other.

Be Aware of Lead Glazes in Dishware

Lead, found in glazes on dishware, is a toxic substance that accumulates in your body, so even small amounts can pose a health hazard over time. According to the California Department of Health Services, lead in tableware can be a serious health threat. Some dishes contain enough lead to cause severe lead poisoning. Even dishes with lower lead levels may contribute to a person's overall lead exposure.

Since there are many thousands of different makes and kinds of china no one has tested them all. The Environmental Defense Fund says that really dangerous pieces of china are fairly rare, but some types of dishes are more likely to have lead.

The EDF says to watch for:

  • China handed down from a previous generation or found in antique stores and flea markets.
  • Home-made or handcrafted china, either from the U.S. or abroad, unless you are sure the maker used a lead-free glaze.
  • Traditional glazed terra cotta ware made in Mexico, unless they are specifically labeled as lead-free.
  • Bright colors or decorations inside surfaces that touch the food or drink, including the rim.
  • Decorations on top of the glaze instead of beneath it. If you can feel the decoration when you rub your fingers over it, or see brush strokes above the glaze surface.
  • Decoration that has begun to wear away or corrode or one that has a dusty or chalky grey residue on the glaze after the piece has been washed. This can be dangerous and not used!
Solution: Don't store food or drink in questionable china pitchers, bowls, etc. Don't serve highly acidic food or drink in questionable china. This includes cola-type soft drinks; orange and grapefruit juice; applesauce and apple juice; tomatoes, ketchup and spaghetti sauce; salad dressings with vinegar; tea and coffee.

Don't heat or microwave in questionable china. Heat can speed up the lead-leaching process. Many experts believe that white china is less likely to have lead problems than highly decorated, multi-colored china. If you are concerned, the only way to be certain is to use glass dishes without decoration, buy dishes labeled "lead-free", or do a home lead test on your existing dishes. Simple test kits, costing approximately $20-$30 apiece, are available by mail and in most hardware and paint stores.

About Beth Greer:

Beth Greer, Super Natural Mom™, is an award-winning journalist, holistic health advocate, impassioned champion of toxin-free living, and radio talk show host, who busts open the myth that our homes are safe havens.

Her bestselling book, Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home and Planet…One Room at a Time (Rodale, 2009), endorsed by Deepak Chopra, Ralph Nader, Peter Coyote and others, shows how food, cosmetics, personal care products, household cleaners and furniture are making us sick.

Formerly President and Co-Owner of The Learning Annex, the largest private alternative adult education company in the U.S., Beth has helped thousands see new possibilities and feel empowered to make changes in their lives. Beth currently hosts her own national show "The Super Natural Mom Show" on the Progressive Radio Network, where she shines the light of truth about what goes in us, on us and surrounds us and gives insights on how to live a safer, less toxic, and more natural life. She also blogs on The Washington Times Communities communities.washingtontimes.com.

>>Buy this book on Amazon: Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home, and Planet--One Room at a Time

For more information on Beth Greer visit, supernaturalmom.com

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