Nonstick cookware, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn
In the never ending crusade for convenience, tons of food items – along with some kitchen utensils and fast-food containers – are lined with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) that stop food from sticking. Unfortunately, they are scraped or chipped off over time or when heated up and wind up in our food. "When you put a nonstick pan on the stove on high with nothing else in it, PFCs are released in smoke and you breathe them in," says Jennifer Sass, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The most thoroughly studied of these chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, have been linked to decreased sperm count, kidney and thyroid problems, and high cholesterol, according to Sharp. And even though these two compounds are being phased out, Solomon says, they're getting replaced by other PFCs – ones that experts don't know as much about. Some early studies have shown that the newer chemicals may have similar health effects. Plus, like flame retardants, PFCs are very persistent in the environment and stay in our systems for years.
To limit further exposure, get rid of your nonstick pots and pans, and use stainless steel or cast iron instead. "Toss out Teflon-coated spatulas if they're a few years old, because they're more likely to chip," Sass says. And avoid microwaving popcorn and using processed foods – but that's just good advice all around.