The Health Hazards With Nonstick Cookware

It almost seems that there will always be something that balances the scale when it comes to advantages and disadvantages of consumer products.

Sort of like production costs always seem rise with every upgrade of a product. There never seem to be products that work better and costs less to consumers.

For example, why is it that with electronic products costing less and less to make, that every new flagship smart device launched by Apple and Samsung always seem to be priced higher than it predecessors?

Doesn’t Moore’s Law hold any water at all in the modern world?

Pardon my rant. That is a discussion for another day and more appropriate on a different platform.

I felt that it is a great lead up to nonstick cookware.

When non-stick cooking pans entered the market, it literally took the world by storm.

Here was a product that every household and every kitchen would want. It does not only solve the problem with bad cooking technique, it also make the tedious job of cleanup must more tolerable for those who hate the part.

But alas! Surely something must give to balance out the benefits of nonstick cookware?

It just don’t seem natural for food to cook on a pan and leave little to no residue or soot on the pan itself.

But on the other hand, we had always known cookware to “stick”. Maybe non-stick is actually the more natural product?

Nonstick cookware like pots and frying pans actually possess this amazing nonstick ability by being coated with a synthetic material called polytetrafluoretheylene (PTFE).

That’s quite a mouthful. I know. I don’t name these things.

Also known as teflon, PTFE is also categorized as a perfluorochemical (PFC).

Enough with the long-winded names and abbreviations.

Nonstick cookware are not godsend as many of us believe. There are drawbacks with it as well. And one of which is it’s potential to release toxic fumes when heated at high temperatures.

And it doesn’t take extreme heat or extended heating for these fumes to be released. A few minutes on the typical stove can be enough start it’s engine.

You must be thinking that that cannot be true. Because how on earth could the authorities approve such a product if it releases toxic gas into the air.

Well I don’t have inside knowledge of how these audits work. But my guess is that the level of toxic is deemed to not be significantly harmful to humans.

Well that does not mean that just because we can withstand short exposure to carbon monoxide that I would gladly suck it into my lungs.

Not that I want to add insult to injury, but PFCs are also substances used in insect repellent.

What health impacts can these toxic fumes cause?

The toxic can be deadly to small animals.

When accumulated in the human body, PFCs can cause adverse health conditions like:

  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • Weak immune systems
  • Thyroid problems
  • etc

Because these are health problems that seldom get diagnosed early, I don’t think that it’s far-fetched to suggest that many people might be suffering from such conditions without thinking that their frying pans are contributing to it to a certain extent.

The exposure to these unhealthy fumes increase when there is damage to the coating on nonstick cookware.

Scratches and scrapes can make it easier for these fumes to escape into the air you breathe.

So the next time you find damage to your cooking pan, do seriously consider replacing it even if you feel that it’s just a cosmetic defect.

Eliminating and managing this health hazard

If you are all-in on the healthy home movement, the choice is obvious.

Replace every item that is nonstick. This includes the:

  • woks
  • pans
  • pots
  • utensils
  • etc

EVERYTHING!

But if you must keep them, I can understand… because I have a couple of them too sitting around in the house.

Then at least try to use a lower heat when using them to cook. Then switch on the fan and open the windows when cooking. Do avoid using utensils on these cookware to avoid scratching them.

The proven, tried and tested cookware is undoubtedly stainless steel. Cook ware made from cast iron, ceramic and glass are not so bad either.

So what if you need to use more oil for cooking? At least you are not consuming toxic substances.

Reducing Your Exposure To VOC in Paint

When it comes to remodeling, a new coat of paint is often something that you don’t even need to say.

It’s as good as a default that a dull looking room or the whole house will be getting a new cheerful color for a facelift.

If you conduct a simple renovation experiment by doing everything you want except applying a fresh new coat of paint, the final result might astound you. It can seem the improvements you have made have very little visual impact overall.

It is only with a new coat of paint that the design idea you had in your mind is brought to life!

While paint is very much an essential part of any renovation works, the problem is with the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOC) present in them.

VOC is one of the common air pollutants found in homes. They are potentially toxic chemicals that can cause adverse health.

Before the harms of VOCs went public, probably every can of paint contained exuberant amounts of VOC.

The good news is that in recent years, big name manufacturers have poured money in research and development to produce paint that addresses this fear.

Low or no VOC

While the big players in the industry are working overnight to conceptualize products that address the concerns of consumers, there are also a lot of manufacturers who continue to produce paint laden with VOCs.

Surely you have had the experience of smelling the odd scent of paint? That is a good example of VOC offgassing.

Yet don’t be tricked into thinking once the smell dissipates that the VOCs will be gone. This be because VOCs will continue to offgas for days, weeks, months, and even years.

If this is a concern to you, rest assured that it is pretty easy to manage this issue.

Because paint that contain low or no VOC are readily available in stores.

The problem is that most homeowners are still not aware of what types of harms VOC exposure can cause. This strongly contributes to how paint containing high VOCs levels are still selling like hotcakes.

Low VOC paints use water as a carrier base instead of petroleum-based solvents. This results in them containing very little potentially harmful substances like mercury, formaldehyde, cadmium, etc.

However, when you buy a can of low or no VOC paint, be mindful of what the label is referring to. This is because while the paint can contain very little VOC, the tint that creates the color could contain a lot.

This defeats the purpose of buying low VOC paint.

So remember to ask about the content of the tint as well and whether low-VOC labels refer to the paint only, or to the tint as well.

Milk as an alternative

Don’t worry. I’m not suggesting that you paint the house with milk. I’m not mad yet.

But one of the healthy-building trends going around these days is milk-based paint.

While milk-based paint is not a new technology, it has a growing demand due simply to homeowners who are more well-informed these days about the hazards building material can bring into the home.

This type of paint uses a combination of milk protein, lime and pigment to create paint that is surprisingly as durable as conventional paint.

However, the colors available can be limited.

Tips for less exposure

Don’t forget that VOCs do not just offgass from the walls. Paint that is sitting in a can stored in the garage will be contributing to the airborne pollutant level as well.

This is why unused paint should be properly disposed as soon as you finish with the paint job.

Don’t put yourself and your family members’ health in danger just so you can save a few bucks by keeping residual leftover paint in a store room.

During painting, take note to maintain high ventilation by opening the doors and windows so that the wind can play a part in carrying the VOCs away. And even after painting, doors and windows should be left open as much as it is practically possible. And for as long as possible.

Major brands tend to have their own range of low-VOC paints. So you probably don’t have to leave your favorite brands at all.

In many stores, staff can even mix a desirable color using low-VOC paint the tint.

And if you have a choice, choose latex paint over oil-based paint. The former is known to release fewer toxins.

Health Hazards Of PBDE Fire Retardants In Soft Furniture

When homeowners talk about environmental health hazards in the house, the focus is often on formaldehyde exposure from furniture crafted with pressed woods.

This is often limited to hard furniture.

Soft furniture, however don’t get the attention it should.

Soft furniture refers to furnishings like cushion covers, curtains, skirtings, pillows, mattresses, sofas, bean bags, etc. And they can pose as much concern as their “hard” cousins.

The obvious danger with these household items is polyurethane foam. This is a petroleum product made from oil.

This is a health hazard because polyurethane foam is commonly used in manufacturing household products and one of it’s properties is that it breaks down easily. Sending tiny particles into the air we breathe.

One of which should be a primary concern is fire retardants.

PBDE fire retardants

This substance is contained in polyurethane foam because polyurethane foam is very flammable.

So to prevent thing from exploding into flames when you are scratching your back, when polyurethane foam is used in making soft furniture, it has to be doused in fire retardants.

These are heavy duty chemicals that wouldn’t look out of place in a manufacturing plant in an industrial factory specifically kept 300 miles away from any nearby cities.

Up to the year 2005, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) were the most commonly used fire retardants.

That was before the adverse health aspects of it was discovered.

However, this is one of those substances that might not affect a lot of people, but when it find a vulnerable host, it can cause absolute chaos to that person’s health.

This is why even though it has the potential to harm an individual’s health, a lot of people are still oblivious to it’s dangers even though they have been sitting on a chair containing PBDEs for years without any negative effects.

Well… maybe there are… just that people don’t realize that the source of their health problems might have originated from under their buttocks!

Health risks

It has been found that PBDEs have the same compound structure as certain neurotoxins.

This means that it has the potential to cause conditions such as:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Immunity deficiencies
  • Liver damage
  • Thyroid issues
  • Brain development problems
  • Cancer
  • etc

I believe the list above say a lot about the amount of attention that PBDEs deserve.

Managing exposure

If you have soft furniture and furnishings sitting around the house since before 2005, the odds are pretty high that they contain PBDEs.

That old 20 year old couch is no longer something to joke about with your friends. You need to take action to keep your family and yourself safe.

If for example, there are pillows containing polyurethane that is beyond repair, consider disposing it altogether.

If that is not possible, then at least to use a pillow case that totally encases the pillow without allowing anything to escape.

When buying new furniture for the house, give used items a miss especially if they are made before 2005.

Choose those containing natural fillings or something like wool.

When practical, purchase upholstered products so that you don’t bring that risk into the home. You can always buy cushions separately for comfort.

And finally, consider vacuuming the house often to remove any concentration of PBDEs in products and also those that are already airborne at home.

3 Tips To Make Windows Safe For Children

So you’ve done almost everything you feel you need to in the house to create a safer environment for the children or the baby who is arriving soon.

You’ve made safety modifications to the stairs, secured corner guards on all the sharp protruding corners of furniture, and you’ve even laminated a safety checklist beside the front door so that you can have a check before going out.

What else is there? Have you missed out anything? How about the windows?

The windows is one of those home fixtures that often get overlooked for safety.

Partly because parents often think that it is not possible to make modifications to it since it’s affixed to the wall. And that as long as they keep it closed or has a railing, it is fine.

You probably don’t need any reminder that babies are vulnerable.

But many don’t realize that as small as a 5-inch opening on a window is big enough for a baby to fall through.

While common sense tells us that we should keep windows closed when there are children or babies around the house, enforcing this behavior is not as easy as it sounds.

Sometimes you just feel that little stuffy in the living room. And since you are in the house, you feel that the circumstances to open the windows just that little will pose no danger.

This is an example of how accidents happen.

I’ve seen with my own eyes of homeowners who install window screens in place of railings. Even if the parents have full confidence in their competence, baby behavior can be unpredictable.

And they can often get to places that seem impossible to begin with.

1) Window guards

A very basic and effective way to manage this potential safety hazard is to install window guards.

Window guards are grill-like structures securely attached to the sides of windows. This makes it impossible for people to fall out of the window.

Because you are protecting your little ones, be mindful that the bars are no more than 4 inches apart.

It’s not time to relent. Install them on every window.

The thing you have to note about installing window guards is fire safety.

Because the firemen use windows to access houses in the event of a building fire, window guards can actually trap people inside or prevent the firemen from getting in.

This is why if you are living between the first and sixth level of a high-rise apartment, the window guards you install should have a emergency release mechanism that enable adults and teenagers to easily open the windows.

Permanent window guards are usually only used for the seventh floor and above.

Saying that, do check the local fire and building codes before proceeding with the installation.

The last thing you want to to install them thinking that you are keeping your kids safe, but it does not comply with safety standards determined by the authorities.

The costs of setting them up can go between $120 to $300 per window depending on various factors.

If you find that will results in smashing your household budget, then at least take a look at some alternatives.

2) Window stoppers

Stoppers are one of those inventions that make total practical sense and don’t cost an arm and a leg to buy.

As long as they are functional and not defective, they can often be enough to give parents peace of mind.

These are small devices that are fixed to the insides of windows so as to only allow them to open up to 4 inches.

This is so that you can still open the windows for ventilation while keeping the children safe at the same time.

They are easily available in hardware stores and can be installed DIY style if you want.

3) Sliding windows

Sliding windows are getting very popular with new homes these days.

Although they are a tad safer than the conventional push-pull windows, they can be easily opened to it’s maximum width if unlocked.

You don’t need a lot of strength to slide them open!

So if you have these windows, either get the catches installed too high for kids to reach, or better yet, use a typical padlock to lock the catch.

Another hazard is that because sliding windows don’t have frames within the the panels, sometimes people can think that it is open when in fact, it’s closed.

To prevent the kids from knocking themselves silly by walking into them, you might want consider pasting something on the window panes so that they can see it when it’s closed.

A lot of parents put a lot of time into safety with regards to furniture. And with that focus, they lose sight of fixtures like windows and doors.

Avoid doing that.

As a final thought, remember that the most basic practice for safety regarding windows is to keep them closed whenever there are children in the house. Safety hacks and devices should be solely depended upon to keep the baby safe from falling out of the house.