To run a greener kitchen and household, some cookware materials are better than others. Whether you simply dabble in the kitchen or cook up a storm, there are some kinds of cookware to steer clear of when buying pots and pans. Here’s a good rundown about two materials you don’t want to be eating but that are commonly found in cookware, from Easy Green Living, a new book by Renee Loux:
Aluminum conducts heat brilliantly, but it’s really dangerous to allow it to come in direct contact with food. It’s a soft, highly reactive (especially with acidic foods) metal that can leach into food. It’s toxic, genotoxic (can cause genetic mutation), and may disrupt hormones. The most dangerous danger is that aluminum is neurotoxic; it can cross the blood-brain barrier and may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Proponents of aluminum cookware say it’s debatable how many aluminum molecules get into food, but many scientists and doctors say it’s a serious health risk. I won’t use aluminum foil to come into contact with cooking food at all costs. Aluminum cookware that is coated with stainless steel is safer–in fact, some of the best heavy-bottomed stainless steel pots and pans have aluminum in their bases to better conduct heat. However, I would advise you to avoid non-stick-coated aluminum pots and pans at all costs because I believe that both materials are really bad for you.
Teflon-coated and other non-stick pots and pans
The chemicals used to make pots and pans non-stick are toxic and hazardous to humans, wildlife, and the environment. They’re widely believed to be carcinogenic, bioaccumulate in tissues over time, and persist in perpetuity in the environment because there is no known mechanism that can break them down. Non-stick chemicals have consistently been linked with developmental disorders, birth defects, and cancer and have been shown to be highly toxic to the liver, kidneys, and blood. Companies that manufacture non-stick products insist that they’re safe and they won’t break down or emit fumes under normal cooking conditions. But it doesn’t take a doctoral degree to contest that pots and pans can get very hot very fast and that they scratch easily, which means flecks of the coating can end up in food.
The original manufacturers of non-stick chemicals, 3M, even stopped making them, citing “principles of responsible environmental management,” but one company (ahem, DuPont) keeps up production despite the EPA’s campaign to reduce and eliminate the use of these dastardly chemicals for the sake of all beings on the planet. The bottom line is, don’t buy them. If you have them, don’t use them for cooking.
Unfortunately, there is no way to recycle non-stick pots and pans, but a good idea might be to send them back to the manufacturer with a little note saying, “Enough is enough, stop with non-stick chemicals already. Quit harming humans and the world at large.”