With the melting snow and the freshly beautiful weather in the springtime comes that inevitable itch for some “spring cleaning.” This is the time of year to open the doors and windows in the house, let the fresh air in and clean out the winter funk. Out with the old, in with the new
A Paleo lifestyle is about making the best choices – food and lifestyle, to optimize your health. Many are great at choosing the highest quality, most humanely raised, best sourced, seasonal, local meats, fats and plants. You are consciously moving more, sleeping better and working on managing your stress levels. Often, the most over-looked aspect of a Paleo lifestyle involves the chemicals used for modern day living – especially in and around your kitchen – and your food!!!! These could be undermining your best efforts by potentially increasing the amount of toxins you consume, causing adverse effects on your health and the environment.
With your spring cleaning in mind it might be time to take a look at these common kitchen toxins hiding in plain sight - the most common hazardous chemicals that can creep into your body via cookware, dinnerware, and food packaging, storage containers and cleaners. This way you can focus on some easy ways to clean up this well-used room in your home.
Check ingredients in your cleaning products to make the best decision for you, your health and your household.
Taking a look around your kitchen and you will easily spot dozens of items made of plastic - storage containers, plastic wrap, garbage bags and box liners. Plastic is made from petroleum and hazardous chemicals that can compromise your health. It is energy-intensive to manufacture and consumes non-renewable resources.
Clean It up
Realistically, it can be difficult to eliminate plastic altogether but there are ways to use less of it, more wisely:
- Use stainless steel travel mugs and water bottles. Bring your own grocery and produce bags to the store, and buy in bulk.
- Buy and store food in glass containers.
- If you do use plastic containers, the safest are labeled with the number 5 or the letters ‘PP’. Numbers 1, 2 and 4 are generally safe but have some issues with toxicity and a limited shelf life.
- Avoid plastics labeled 3, 6 and 7.
- Avoid buying or using melamine dinnerware, which is made with formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Melamine is hard plastic, often decorated with bright colors, patterns and pictures that are targeted toward children.
- If you choose to use a microwave, never microwave foods in or on plastic containers. A ‘microwavable’ label only means it will not melt or warp, not that chemicals will not leach into your food.
- Do not put plastic containers in the dishwasher. Hand wash them gently with mild soap.
- Transfer restaurant leftovers into glass or stainless steel containers or bring your own reusable to-go container to the restaurant.
Pete’s Paleo meals and products are produced, packaged and shipped with your ultimate wellness in mind. All items are packaged using safe, non-toxic processes and packaging materials free from BPA’s, PTFE’s, EGBE’s. lead and triclosan.
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Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen found in thousands of products including reusable polycarbonate (#7 plastic) food and beverage containers, the lining of canned goods, PVC (#3 plastic); and on receipts and money.
BPA can leach into your food and liquids. Exposure to even trace amounts of BPA have been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and have been linked to a wide range of disorders including breast cancer, reproductive system damage, heart disease and obesity. BPA also poses the highest risk to developing fetuses and babies.
Clean It Up
BPA is found in the lining of nearly all canned foods and beverages. A few companies do offer food in BPA-free cans. While it may be difficult to totally eliminate canned foods and beverages, at least try to avoid those for which you have fresh or frozen alternatives, as well those known to contain high levels of BPA.
Polycarbonate plastics are hard and clear. This is the plastic most often used to make baby bottles and children’s sippy cups. Look for the number 7 on the bottom of the container or the letters ‘PC.’ They break down easily and can leach BPA, especially when they are heated, washed with strong detergent, or come in contact with fatty, salty or acidic foods. Use glass containers for storing and heating food. Stainless steel is another good storage option. Look for BPA-free stainless-steel water bottles, and glass or stainless steel baby bottles and sippy cups..
Containers made with the BPA alternative, BPS are not ideal substitutes as research has proven this chemical to be just as harmful as BPA. There are numerous types of bisphenols available and the safety and efficacy of any of these chemicals has yet to be verified.
Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical found in many kitchen products like cutting boards, countertops, dish towels, plastic food storage containers, sponges and liquid hand soap.
Triclosan accumulates in your body and is linked to skin and eye irritation, liver toxicity and hormone disruption. It can also accumulate in waterways, killing beneficial bacteria that contribute to healthy ecosystems. The American Medical Association advises against using triclosan in the home as it may contribute to the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Clean It Up
Stay away from antibacterial products, which may be labeled with terms such including ‘antibacterial’, fights germs’, ‘protects against mold’, ‘odor fighting’, or ‘keeps food fresher, longer’. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with plain soap and water. Skip antibacterial cutting boards, which are often made with petroleum-based plastics and are required by the EPA to carry a warning statement such as, ‘This product does not protect users or others against food-borne bacteria.’ Sustainably harvested bamboo or FSC-certified wood cutting boards are good alternatives. Scrub all surfaces that contact food (such as cutting boards, utensils and countertops) with hot, soapy water and use vinegar to disinfect.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is found in Teflon coating and other non-stick cookware. It belongs to a toxic class of chemicals known as perfluorochemicals (PFCs), which are widely used to repel grease, water and stains on many products including food packaging, clothing and carpet.
At high temperatures, Teflon and other non-stick surfaces can break down and release potentially hazardous fumes and particles which can trigger flulike symptoms in humans. PFCs have been linked with low-birth-weight babies, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation, early menopause and reduced immune function. Non-stick coatings can also contain residues of perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), another extremely persistent likely human carcinogen.
Clean It Up
Eight companies, including the makers of Teflon non-stick cookware, have agreed to phase PFOA out of their products, but PTFE remains a concern. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet is a safe alternative. With proper maintenance your cast iron will develop a wonderful non-stick surface and become one of your best cooking tools.
If you choose to continue to use non-stick cookware:
- Cook on the lowest heat possible.
- Never leave an empty pan on a hot burner.
- Use wood or bamboo utensils to avoid scratching the surface.
- Hand wash pots and pans.
- Avoid abrasive cleaning products.
Lead is a highly toxic metal. The most common source of exposure is from paint in homes and buildings built before 1978 but lead can also be found in the kitchen. Lead is used in the glazing process of some ceramic dinnerware and pottery. It can leach into drinking water through plumbing materials.
Lead accumulates and stays in the body for a prolonged period. Even small amounts of lead can be harmful, especially for fetuses and young children. Lead poisoning in children has been linked to learning disabilities, developmental delays and lower IQ scores. In adults, symptoms include high blood pressure, headaches, memory loss, muscular weakness and abdominal pain.
Clean It Up
The FDA regulates the sale of dinnerware that leaches lead. If you are aiming to eliminate lead, be especially cautious when purchasing ceramics and pottery. Items that are handmade, antique, excessively worn or damaged, orange, red or yellow, or made in other countries are more likely to contain lead. To confirm that your dishes are safe, use a lead-testing kit (available at hardware stores or online). Until you are certain, do not use questionable dishes to heat or store food or to serve highly acidic foods and drinks such as tomato-based sauces, salad dressing, citrus juice and coffee.
Lead-testing kits are also available for tap water. If your water contains levels higher than 15 parts per billion, you should take action to minimize your exposure (for more information visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
The EPA recommends the following actions to minimize lead exposure:
- Use cold water to prepare food and drinks.
- Flush water outlets used for drinking or food preparation.
- Clean debris out of outlet screens and faucet aerators on a regular basis.
2-Butoxyethanol is widely used as a solvent in protective surface coatings such as spray lacquers, quick-dry lacquers, enamels, varnishes, and latex paints. It is also used as an ingredient in in metal cleaners, fabric dyes and inks, industrial and window, kitchen and multipurpose cleaners (as a degreaser), and dry-cleaning compounds as well as in liquid soaps and cosmetics.
2-butoxyethanol is the key ingredient in many window cleaners and gives them their characteristic sweet smell. In addition to causing sore throats when inhaled, at high levels glycol ethers can also contribute to narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage.
2-butoxyethanol may also be listed as ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylene glycol butyl ether, Butyl Cellosolve, ethylene glycol n-butyl ether, butyl Oxitol, Dowanol EB, glycol butyl ether, Polysolv, and Ektasolve EB. Abbreviations for 2-butoxyethanol include EGBE, BE and BEA.
Clean It Up
Read product labels and avoid products listing the ingredients noted above. In cleaning products, where manufacturers are not required to list all their ingredients on product labels, choose non-toxic chemical free alternatives
Clean mirrors and windows with newspaper and diluted vinegar.
For other kitchen tasks, stick to simple cleaning compounds made from natural ingredients like ground feldspar and baking soda without the added bleach or fragrances found in most commercial cleansers.
You can also make your own formulas with baking soda, vinegar and essential oils.
Spring is the perfect time to clean things out and ensure your food preparation and cooking environment is not sabotaging your efforts to choose and eat the most optimal foods for your body.