Wooden spoons and glass mugs: how to avoid toxic chemicals in your kitchen
Tom Perkins has reported widely on the potential risks of toxic chemicals. Here’s his guide to help you find safe alternatives for your kitchen
Chemicals are the invisible guests in our kitchens. You can’t see them but they are everywhere.
Simply making a meal can be a toxic minefield. Dangerous chemicals lurk in just about every step of the prep: PFAS “forever chemicals” in nonstick cookware, bisphenol in plastic containers, lead in ceramics, arsenic in pans, formaldehyde in cutting boards and the list goes on.
Food safety regulators are accused of failing to protect the public from chemicals in kitchens with loophole-ridden laws and inadequate response to threats. Meanwhile, some companies conceal their use of harmful substances or misleadingly market unsafe goods as safe. Even well-intentioned businesses can unwittingly add toxins to their products.
Regular exposure to the galaxy of chemicals we encounter in our daily lives poses a potential health hazard. About 90,000 human-made chemicals now exist, and we simply don’t know how daily exposure to them affects our health. Some precaution is reasonable and the kitchen is a good place to start. But navigating the pitfalls is extremely difficult.
Broadly speaking, there are a few good rules of thumb:
- For almost every plastic kitchen product, there is a safer wood, borosilicate glass, or stainless steel alternative, though those come with caveats.
- Be wary of nonstick coatings, which are often composed of substances that haven’t been thoroughly studied.
- Be skeptical of marketing words such as “eco”, “green” or “nontoxic” that have no legal definition.
- Check independent analyses and always do your own research. Some food safety bloggers test for toxins like heavy metals or PFAS in products that regulators don’t check, which can provide useful information.
Armed with years of knowledge from reporting on chemical pollution for the Guardian, I have identified kitchen products that are low risk and largely free of toxins.