I bought a beautiful hand-carved wooden cooking spoon at our local farmer’s market when my son was a toddler. It is one of my favorite cooking utensils and we have used it ever since for baking, cooking and stealing tastes from the bowl. Today, I still have that wooden spoon but have banned all other plastic kitchen utensils from my kitchen because I don’t want anything plastic touching the food I’m preparing for my family. And this is a wise move for several reasons that we will explore here. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you the deadly chemicals leaching out of black plastics, which plastics are the safest when not heating, & eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws, join us now as we explore the reasons why you really need to stop using plastic utensils in your kitchen.
Are you using any nylon based cooking utensils? Nylon is a thermoplastic. This kind of plastic can be melted and molded into shape. It is also used to create composite heat-resistant materials. But it’s not just nylon that is in those plastic cooking utensils. Disastrously, plastics, especially the black ones, are more dangerous than they are useful. And when you are also considering they are contributing to pollution to our environment, the question is why use them? Not convinced yet? Then there are a dozen reasons to get rid of plastic cooking utensils!
1. They Don’t Last Long
Those black nylon plastic cooking utensils chip, shred with use. That damage from everyday use allows toxins to enter your food. Remember, they’re heat resistant to 400 degrees, not heat proof. They will melt with extended contact with a hot pan.
2. “BPA-Free” is a BS Label
BPA-free does not mean safe. Most of the time when companies are touting “BPA-Free” they have just replaced BPA with a similar chemical. Bisphenol-A (BPA) has been replaced by bisphenol-S (BPS), which independent scientists are warning is just as bad or perhaps worse than BPA. The reason is BPS isn’t that much different from BPA. It’s a sister chemical, part of the same family of bisphenols and all are rotten. We refer to the bisphenol family of chemicals as the “bitchy bisphenols” because they are all rotten. BPS disrupts cell function in the same ways that BPA does, leading to obesity, hormone disruption, and even cancer. That means that plastic cooking utensils labeled “BPA-free” are not necessarily safe.
3. There Is No Safe Plastic
Actually, any plastic is a hazard for endocrine disruptors, some especially when heated. For this reason, it’s best to limit your use of them as much as possible. This is especially true when heating them up in the kitchen! It’s difficult to tell what exactly is in the plastic cooking utensils since companies don’t disclose the chemical make-up of their products (but they will trademark it). Plastics like polypropylene, used in plastic cooking utensils, leach chemicals into the body. These chemicals act like estrogen in the body, creating a whole new set of problems.
4. Several Organizations Have Asked The FDA To Remove Phthalates From Anything Touching Food
Several organizations, including the Breast Cancer Fund, The Center for Food Safety and The Center For Environmental Safety, are pressuring the FDA to rule against phthalate use in any products. For example, plastics which have contact with food, including food storage and plastic cooking utensils. Right now, only certain phthalates are banned from use in children’s products used by ages 12 and under. Not only are Phthalates are linked to asthma, but also to developmental disabilities, obesity, cancer and more.
5. They Contain Traces of Flame Retardants & Heavy Metals
Plastic cooking utensils, especially ones made of black, are made with recycled computer parts that have been treated with flame retardants. Companies are (possibly unknowingly) risking your health in an effort to reuse plastic. It’s a noble yet foolish issue when you consider what is leaching out of the plastic when you are heating it with use. Earlier this year researchers discovered something very sinister coming out of plastics. After testing 129 black plastic items used in contact with food & beverage, they found the presence of brominated flame retardants, chlorine, PVC, cadmium, chromium, mercury, lead, and antimony. Most of these substances are not safe for human consumption, even at small levels. Additional things tested included plastic cooking utensils and coffee mugs. These chemicals have been found in blood and breast milk samples. Presently the EPA has labeled one of these chemicals, decaBDE, as a possible human carcinogen.
6. They Pollute The Environment
8 MILLION tons of plastic end up in the oceans, and the number is growing. This trash is accumulating in vortexes in ocean currents and has created large garbage patches. Lamentably, few companies recycle plastic cooking utensils, so those utensils are feeding the plastic pollution problem.
7. “Made In China” a Lot of Times Means Made with Carcinogens
Most of the black nylon utensils found to be passing primary aromatic amines into food were made in China. These chemicals have sensitizing and allergenic properties. Alarmingly, the one found most prevalently in samples that gave of excessive amounts was 4,40-MDA, which is a possible carcinogen. Animal testing has proved that constant exposure leads to thyroid and liver cancers.
8. Their Production Poisons Us
One of the main chemicals formed in the manufacturing of household plastics is benzene. Benzene contains a mix of chemicals, including dangerous phthalates. Benzene is also a known carcinogen. Unfortunately, rates of non-Hodkin lymphoma are higher around factories that release benzene.
9. Spend a Little More to Get a LOT More
Plastic cooking utensils tend to be cheaper, but also damage more easily. Why not pay a little more for a safer option – silicone, stainless steel or wood – which has a longer life? You may also save some money on your health.
10. Other Utensils are Safe To Use
Other utensils are just as safe when cooking meat. Wooden spoons are safe to use – even with chicken! Just wash them well afterward. You can season them, and, if properly cleaned and air dried, they will last years. For instance, bamboo is a renewable resource and makes a great utensil.
11. They Can Be Hard To Clean
Plastic cooking utensils can be hard to clean, especially if the plastic on the end has broken down with wear and heat. Scrubbing can also cause more wear on a spatula with a worn end. As a result, rough edges and handles with mixed components can be a bacteria risk.
12. Manufacturers Cover Up Their Dangerous Chemical Pollution History
Companies who make the plastics pollute the environment, including water sources for cities and agriculture. Many chemicals are dumped into the environment, most notably PFOA, making their way into our bodies. Unfortunately, these PFC chemicals persist in the environment without signs of breaking down. Meanwhile, companies are strategizing against worker claims and have hidden decades of research showing that low-dose exposure is dangerous.
Kitchen Utensils Mamavation Recommends
There are several kitchen utensils Mamavation recommends for cooking. When it comes to your food, we don’t recommend anything plastic, especially black plastics. When it comes to cooking utensils, wood & stainless steel are your best bets. Silicone is okay for things that are cold, but our partners at the Food Packaging Forum in Europe are still deciding whether it’s safe to heat silicone. Until they let us know, we are avoiding heating silicone. Here are some utensils that we love:
- Bambu organic bamboo kitchen utensils also certified B Corp
- Bamboo utensil set for less than $9
- Wooden spoons
- Looking for more stylish bamboo? These are cute!
- 29 stainless steel cooking utensil set
- Bambu Spork Set of 4
Here are some additional kitchen needs you may not have thought about. For instance, is there any black plastic touching the liquid in your coffee maker? I tossed my coffee maker out last year and never looked back for that very reason. Today I make coffee with a Chemex and love the hip look of the caddy and fresh coffee it makes. And what about food processors like blenders? Is there any plastic touching your food there? We’ve also curated food processors and other kitchen appliances that don’t have plastic or nonstick chemicals touching the food below. Feel free to use the drop-down menu to find other categories of safe curated products you are looking for.
And if you’d like more information about how to detoxify your home from toxins and hormone-disrupting chemicals that cause indoor air pollution, pick up a copy of Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier (All Without Driving Your Family Crazy!). Mamavation is also a community of like-minded people, so join us on Facebook for support from other women who are just like you. And for FREE updates, tips & tricks, product investigations and news, sign up for the Mamavation newsletter here.
What kind of cooking utensils do you have in your home?