We all come into contact with a million different chemicals and metals in our daily lives. Even if we’re vigilant and we only buy chemical-free products for our homes, we can’t escape what’s being put in our food and in our water.
It’s usually easy to figure out which products are harmful—obviously, everyone knows not to breathe in the irritating gases in a gallon of bleach! However, some of these dangers can be hiding in plain sight in the products we all use daily.
For instance, if you’ve ever baked chicken or fish in the oven, then you’ve probably used aluminum foil. It’s cheap and helpful—especially when wrapping up leftovers—but when you hear what it could be doing to your body, you might never use it again.
Aluminum foil is something most people have in their homes. It’s cheap, useful, and for many people, it’s a go-to when it comes to cooking and food storage. However, this common item is actually hiding a very dark secret…
Aluminum foil is still commonly called tin foil, though tin hasn’t been used to make the stuff since the early 20th century. Tin left a strange metallic taste on food; plus it was stiffer to use and much more expensive to make.
The first aluminum foil was made by J.G. Neher & Sons in Switzerland in 1910. They produced it in their factory that was powered by an actual waterfall. It might seem charming that such a natural energy source was used to develop something that looked so modern and futuristic, but like waterfalls, aluminum foil has its dangers…
Initially aluminum foil was primarily used by candy makers; the Toblerone company was the first to use the stuff to wrap their candy. By 1913, companies like Life Savers were quickly following in their footsteps.
Today more than 660,000 tons of aluminum is made each year, with 75 percent of it going to package cosmetics, cigarettes, and food items. It can be recycled, too, which makes up for the massive volume of production. Still, despite its ubiquity, it’s not entirely safe.
With so much foil being made, it goes to follow that people would find other uses for it. It is commonly used to prepare food in the oven and on the grill to help cut back on cleanup time. However, health experts are speaking out and saying that this may not be wise…
While it’s safe to wrap food in the foil, tiny flecks of aluminum are transferred to your food when you cook with it. Ingesting too much aluminum can lead to Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis—and in severe cases, total kidney failure.
Ingesting a little bit of aluminum every day isn’t unusual. After all, it can be found everywhere, from cheeses and teas to antiperspirants. Though your body is able to handle aluminum in small doses, problems can occur when you’re exposed to larger quantities…
The World Health Organization states that the body can take in 40 milligrams of aluminum without causing damage. However, if you eat meat that’s been cooked in foil, you could be ingesting more than six times that suggested amount!
The amount of aluminum you ingest when you cook food in foil goes up when you add ingredients that are acidic, like lemon. This can actually increase the amount of aluminum you’re ingesting, transforming an otherwise healthy meal into a nightmare.
Even if you avoid aluminum when you’re cooking, those numbers can still be high because the chemical compound aluminum sulfate is used in the water purification process. This means you’re likely ingesting aluminum with every sip of water you take, too!
In spite of scientific findings, the debate over the safety of cooking with aluminum foil is raging on. According to one report published in 2011, the body absorbs less than 0.4 percent of the aluminum it ingests. Still, these studies aren’t conclusive.
Of the aluminum that you actually ingest, only one percent of that will make its way into your brain. While that might be one percent more than you would like, some scientists say that this makes your risk of develop Alzheimer’s negligible…
Let’s break down those numbers: say you cook salmon in a piece of foil with 400 milligrams of aluminum. On average, your body will absorb about 1.6 milligrams of that. Running the numbers, it seems like just 0.016 milligrams of aluminum will find its way to your brain.
Dave Pappas / Flickr
In order for you to actually ingest enough aluminum for it to be harmful to your brain, you would have to eat all of your meals cooked in aluminum foil—and then some. This begs the question: why are some scientists so sure about the Alzheimer’s link?
This theory began when scientists and doctors began examining the plaques that formed on the brains of deceased people with Alzheimer’s. In the process, they discovered that aluminum was present in all of the plaques.
That was all it took to divide the medical community. Now, some scientists are sure there is a connection between aluminum—whether you’re cooking with it or ingesting it via your water supply—and Alzheimer’s. Still, others believe there isn’t enough proof that this is the cause for the disease.
It is true that food cooked in aluminum will pass on the metal into your system, but so does drinking a cup of tea! People have been drinking tea for centuries without ill effects, which leads some to believe that ingesting the metal isn’t a real factor for illness.
The truth is that we just don’t have enough information to be entirely sure that cooking with aluminum foil is safe. If you want to err on the side of caution, you’re better off using aluminum-free bakeware when you cook, even if it is a little bit messier.
The good news? You can still use foil in the way it was intended with zero concerns, and that’s as a tool to help you store food! Wrap up everything in foil all you want. It only ever becomes a potential danger when the metal is exposed to heat!
So there you have it. If you want to play it safe with foil, your best bet is to keep it away from the oven and the grill. Who knew this was such a hot button issue?
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