I've been looking at cookware lately, trying to figure out which ones are the healthiest and which ones are energy-efficient. While scouring the web for info, I found that aluminum pans and Teflon-coated cookware have some health concerns attached to them. Are these health concerns warranted? Here is what I found out:
Aluminum's Link to Alzheimer's Disease
In order to learn about this particular connection, I went to the Alzheimer's Society's fact sheet. They say that the link between Alzheimer's disease and aluminum is circumstantial and nothing conclusive has been proven. I also learned that the average Canadian ingests 10 milligrams of aluminum per day. I'd assume its roughly the same for other North Americans. The World Health Organization claims that we can ingest up to 50 milligrams of aluminum per day with no adverse effects.
Also, read this TreeHugger article written by Helen Suh Macintosh professor of environmental health at Harvard University. Basically, she says that the aluminum found in pots and pans isn't really that dangerous and that the amount of aluminum we absorb from cooking with aluminum pots is only 3-6 milligrams. But, she goes on to say that storing acidic foods in aluminum pots and pans is likely to leach more aluminum into the food than usual and not to store foods in such a way. Aluminum, like copper or steel pans, shouldn't be used if there are scrapes or gouges in the pan's cooking surface. It looks like aluminum isn't that dangerous, but worries still linger.
NOTE: Anodized aluminum pans can cook acidic food without any of the leaching problems that regular aluminum has.
Teflon/Non-Stick's Health Conundrum
Non-stick pans are another story. When heated to temperatures of 360 degrees Celsius, (685.4 Fahrenheit for us folks in the United States ) Teflon-coated pans will release perfluorooctanoic acid, a likely carcinogen. Not that people often cook at temperatures that high, but now you definitely shouldn't. Chemicals released by non-stick pans can cause the death of pet birds. It can also cause flu-like symptoms in humans. Teflon-pan makers have made a deal with the EPA to remove the poisonous chemicals from non-stick pans by 2010. Consumer Reports claims that the pans aren't that dangerous, because of the extreme temperatures needed to release the chemicals. You're more likely to start a fire than anything.
Note: Remember, if the Teflon coating in your pans is all scratched up, don't use them.
Although non-stick and aluminum get bad raps, they seem to be only mildly dangerous in certain circumstances. In my personal opinion, I'd rather use other types of materials to cook my food. Why take a risk? But I wouldn't turn down food cooked in non-stick or Aluminum cookware or any food, really.