When I say lead, you might automatically think “oh yeah, that used to be in all paint.” But, are you aware of how much lead is still in products circulating today, especially those in your kitchen?
How about Teflon? Yes, I’m talking about the much loved non-stick chemical that all people have likely been exposed to. Just because there’s a product that “works well” for a certain purpose by no means makes it safe for people to use, let alone cook food at a high heat that goes directly into our bodies.
Why be concerned? If you’re unknowingly exposing yourself and your family to lead there could be many long lasting side effects. Typically, the smaller the child the more damage it can cause, so why not act now and take control of one small aspect of your life that could have big negative impacts? Another reason to increase your knowledge about these harmful chemicals is because your doctor might not know enough. Doctors may know a lot, but not everything.
Lead in particular is something that many babies are tested for in infancy, but then never again. This makes no sense! If you don’t know to ask for a lead test then you might never know that you or your child was exposed at one point, leading to later negative side effects down the road. It’s not something that a child can be tested for at 15 years old due to increased behavioral concerns, poor attention, cognitive delay to find out that they were exposed to moderate or high levels at, say, 3-5 years old.
We live in an older house and my husband recently tested the exterior paint on parts of our house which tested positive for lead, including a door my daughter often touches. Because of that and the likelihood that we still have other products throughout our house that she interacts with we asked our doctor’s office to do a lead test at her 2 year checkup. The nurse was confused as to why we wanted one, since she was tested at 6 months old. Her response was that it wasn’t necessary but we could talk to the doctor more at our appointment if we really wanted one. Of course the doctor ended up agreeing to this but she still seemed confused as to why we felt it was needed. We were absolutely shocked by this response, but at the same time not surprised since the knowledge just isn’t out their in mainstream medical practice. My daughter is still teething and biting everything right now!! Although we don’t let her near our keys, I often see babies and toddlers playing with keys, then putting their hands in their mouth, or biting keys directly. Keys have lead which is often coated at first, but we all know that keys rub every single time they’re used, eventually exposing that lead. This is just one example of a frequent interaction with lead but there are so many!
My husband kick started our research on lead well before I got pregnant with my daughter. We wanted to actually walk the walk of a healthy lifestyle and cover all bases we could in our home. This meant going through old knick knacks and eagerly saying “see ya never again,” looking through our cookware to replace with safe, quality products only, and maintaining a constant knowledge about what products contain lead.
We have learned so much from Tamara Rubin and I would highly recommend using her website and video to help educate yourself more if you’re interested: tamararubin.com
There are certain items such as measuring cups with the red paint on the outside marking the measurements that, yes, have lead. The lead is in the red paint which doesn’t directly interact with food necessarily, but if you’re touching it all the time, washing it and wearing that lead down, you’re exposing yourself to it every time you use it.
Many beautiful and colorful dishes, leaded crystal cups, mugs, large kitchen ware, and more, can have lead. Utensils including: pizza cutters, ice cream scoops, spatulas, products with silicone can contain lead or cadmium.
This is one of those chemicals that can make you feel helpless because it’s a “forever chemical” and never really leaves your body. Although most people don’t show negative side effects with trace amounts, how are we as consumers really to know all of the long term side effects? It’s shocking that Teflon is still legal, but, like so many other chemicals, it’s out there but it’s ultimately up to us as consumers to decide whether or not to purchase it and use it. If you do a quick search you might find that Teflon is “safe.” But this is often followed up with, “if used under a certain temperature” or “until the coating wears off at which point toxic chemicals are released into the air.” There are alternative non-stick coatings that you can find on cookware, it’s all about doing your research and knowing what is in/on the product you’re buying!
Why do people still buy and use Teflon? Honestly I think it’s lack of knowledge about the harms of this chemical and when you’re not overtly affected by something, why make a change? The other reason is likely that it’s a helpful product in the fact that it makes those pans non-stick, easy to clean, and that makes a big difference for a lot of people. Even when learning about the harms of Teflon it was hard for me to transition away because it can be so effective. But, health comes first and now I wouldn’t use anything but cast iron and corning ware. When cared for correctly both can be non-stick and overall hold heat more effectively than other non-stick pans.
For those who aren’t wanting to jump online to do a bunch of research or read a book about the matter, check out this recent movie that does a great job of detailing the extreme cases of Teflon poisoning: Dark Waters
So What Do We Use?
We almost solely use cast iron, corning ware (the old ones not the knew ones sold in stores currently), glass, and stainless steal in our home. Please visit my Shop page to view products we use daily in my home and recommend as safe!
Safe Products for Babies and Kids
You can follow the same Shop link as shown above for some kitchen products for kids. We used some plastic products when my little one was a baby for ease, but we quickly transitioned away. Yes, we give my toddler glass and guess what, she does great! Protective sleeves on the glasses are a reassurance for me. You can also check out my post on Safe Products for Babies, Kids, and Mamas for self-care products that are clean and safe.
Everything in moderation is important to remember, especially when discussing chemicals in products for kids. Plastic is durable, and easy for the most part, and often times needed for a caregiver’s sanity. But, if you start your kids early with something such as a glass cup or stainless steel bowl, they won’t know any difference and they’ll learn to use it safely.