Food

So What's the Deal with Non-stick Baking Pans?

Why you might really need to go on a shopping-spree

Nonstick pans may be great, trust me, I'm a long-time baker who craves those perfectly sculpted sides of cakes and a hassle-free removal of muffins from the tin, but increasing evidence from research is showing that maybe we should ditch the non-stick pans for a safer alternative. Here are some of our favorite baking pans, what they're best used for, and a few great tips and tricks to keep you and the kiddos safe when indulging in those late-night brownies. If you are looking for new bakeware, check out our roundup of some of our favorite baking essentials.


Ceramic

Even if ceramic pans aren't nonstick in nature, they can be lined with unbleached parchment paper to keep sides from sticking, are often beautiful in design (I'm looking at you Le Creuset) and finished products can be served right in the pan. That means an easier cleanup for you and more time to enjoy those baked goods! These pans are great for casseroles, baked French toast, or crisps and crumbles.

Cast Iron

These babies are non-stick and a favorite among chefs and home cooks alike. Not only can you use them for cooking, but they are beyond terrific for brownies, blondies, corn breads and Dutch babies. They make for perfect golden edges, and a super easy cleanup. Pro-tip: on a hot summer day, I love to make a giant skillet brownie and top it with scoops of vanilla ice cream for the best dessert.

Stainless Steel

These types of baking pans are the best for cookies. Since stainless steel conducts heat extremely well, they make for chewy cookies with crispy edges. Pro-tip: cookies like snickerdoodles, which have been coated in sugar before baking won't stick to the pan, but for other cookies, either grease the pan prior to baking with oil or butter, or place a sheet of unbleached parchment paper under for a magically fast clean-up.

Glass

Glass pans works wonders when baking for crowds. These are great for poke cakes or lasagna, and you can serve directly from the pan! Think about it, dinner and dessert solved in just two pans.

Silicone

Baking pans made of silicon are great because they can be molded into virtually any shape. I've seen Bundt pans, muffin tins, and even silicone liners for cookies.

Cheaper Alternatives

If you're not looking to spend a fortune on new baking pans, here are some cheaper hacks.

  • Unbleached parchment paper: since toxic fumes from non-stick pans are released at temperatures higher than regular baking temperatures, simply placing a sheet of parchment paper between your pan and baked good will keep your goodies chemical-free. We recommend this brand, which has promised a fluorine-free product!
  • Cupcake liners: Again, the same concept goes, but these liners are perfect whether you're making cupcakes or muffins.
  • If you know that you're going to be baking something at an extremely high temperature, it's better to safe than sorry and stick with stainless steel or cast iron, two types of materials that can safely withstand very high temperatures. Pyrex (or any brand of tempered glass) also works well, but make sure not to stick the cap in the oven, as that is not heat-resistant.
  • If you're a traditional baker that likes to stick with the classics, greasing pans and then coating sides with flour or cocoa powder helps to more easily remove baked items from the pan.

The hacks listed above are great ways to keep using those non-stick pans while still keeping the chemicals out, but if your pans are old, scratched, or a hand-me-down, best to think about investing in some new bakeware. Looking for inspiration? Check out our roundup of some of our favorite baking essentials.

Why should you make the switch today?

Non-stick baking pans contain perfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) which although great at being nonstick, are not awesome for your body. We know these PFAS most famously as Teflon (maybe you remember your mom raving about these non-stick pans to make fried eggs in!). Despite PFAS being sprayed on a variety of different things, the main source of exposure is actually through ingestion of food, such as absorption of PFAS from cooking pans and baking pans (2). The gases released from Teflon can cause respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, chest pain and cough. The coating itself, once damaged can be easily mixed in with your food. Not good! Since this discovery, Teflon has been replaced with GenX, but increasing research is showing that it is highly likely that all chemicals in this class are no longer safe (3). The best thing you can do is to keep those non-stick pans out of the kitchen or avoid using them in a setting where food comes in direct contact with the non-stick pan.

A word about aluminum

Often, as a baker, the first thing that we reach for is the aluminum foil or pan. They're so easy for pies, lining the edges of a baked good to prevent excess browning, the list goes on and on. However, research has shown that ingesting too much aluminum can lead to adverse health effects. (1) Luckily, aluminum pans, if lined with paper liners or unbleached parchment paper should be safe. The only thing you need to worry about is if you're baking involved citric acid (a.k.a. anything with vitamin C). So, if you're making a baked good that contains lemon or orange, stick to baking pans made of silicon or stainless steel.

Non-sticks may be hard to let go of (I feel your pain, fellow bakers), but these easy hacks will allow you to keep indulging in those late-night desserts for years to come!

References

1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12302-017-0117-x

2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-21872-9_2

3. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11356-017-0095-y
Life

Buying holiday decorations? Here's what you should know

Don't let these chemicals ruin your holiday cheer

You may need to be careful rockin' around the Christmas tree this year! Why you ask? Well, there might be some unexpected chemicals in that holly jolly decoration above your head. Holiday decorations can bring great cheer, but sometimes they can contain an unwanted surprise. Some decorations may be made with toxic chemicals - keep a look out for the ones below!
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Life

Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree Toxic?

Tips to reduce your exposure to these hazardous chemicals

Artificial Christmas trees are becoming increasingly popular for families. They're seen as being convenient since they don't shed needles and can be reused year after year. Because they can be reused, families tend to save money by choosing artificial trees over a real one. A study from the The American Christmas Tree Association (yes that is a real and reputable organization!) performed a life cycle analysis and found that one artificial tree that's reused for eight or more Christmases is more environmentally friendly than purchasing a real tree each year (1). The study also found that Christmas trees, both real and fake, accounted for a tiny part (< 0.1%) of a person's annual carbon footprint.

But are artificial Christmas trees as good for your health as they are for your wallet? The majority of artificial trees are made using a plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and lead, which is used to stabilize PVC (2). The lead in the trees break down over time and forms lead dust. These particles are released into the air and can cause health issues, especially in young children. Most people do not realize that artificial trees contain lead, and only California requires a lead warning label (2). It is estimated that there are 50 million households in the United States that own artificial trees with lead in them (3).

Don't panic! If you are an owner of an artificial Christmas tree made out of PVC, there are precautions you can take to reduce your family's exposure to lead.

  1. PVC releases more gases when it is first exposed to air. They also release gases as they degrade. A good way to reduce the amount of lead in your household is to take the tree out of the box and air it outside when you first purchase it (4).
  2. If you have used your artificial tree for many Christmases, you may want to consider purchasing a new one. PVC tends to weaken and degrade after nine years (4). Newer artificial trees do not leach as much lead as older ones.
  3. Light cords that come with your artifical tree are prone to have levels of lead that exceed the limit set by the EPA (4). It is recommended that you wash your hands immediately after touching light cords. And definitely don't let young children handle cords.

If you're currently tree-less and in the market for an artificial one, consider purchasing a tree made out of polyethylene. This plastic is safer than PVC and does not leach lead. Additionally, trees made out of polyethylene tend to be more durable than PVC trees.

While artificial PVC Christmas trees don't pose a high health risk overall to the general population, it's very possible for young children to have severe negative health effects (3). It's important to be aware of the health risks that go along with trees made out of PVC, and the ways to avoid lead exposure for yourself and your family this holiday season.


References

  1. https://www.christmastreeassociation.org/real-artificial-christmas-tree-environment/
  2. https://rtkenvironmental.com/lead/warning-hidden-health-hazard-artificial-christmas-trees/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15628192
  4. https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19548208/do-christmas-trees-make-you-sick/
Sometimes it may feel like everywhere you turn, there's some sort of junk food being advertised—whether that's cupcakes or fries or deep fried things on a stick. And more than sometimes, you have a child begging you for a sweet treat or sugary drink. It can feel like a daunting task at times to encourage and foster healthy eating. While we know there are many factors that influence a child's food choices, here's one that you may not have thought of.
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Life

Avoid These Stressful Ingredients the Next Time You Relax with a Bath Bomb

We don't need these chemicals messing with our #selfcare

December means it's time to start thinking about those stocking stuffers or Chanukah gifts for your loved ones. What's better than a bath bomb to relax and take in those sudsy, therapeutic fragrances? Bath bombs can also get your kids to bathe without putting up a fight. They're basically magic! But, have you stopped to think what else they are putting in those bombs to make those suds glisten and fizz?

What's in a Bath Bomb?

It turns out, there can be a whole range of questionable chemicals packed neatly into those appealing little bombs. It's hard to tell exactly what's in each bath bomb because the ingredients vary widely among manufacturers, but fragrances, artificial colors, boric acid, and glitter are some common ingredients.

Fragrance is never a welcome sight on the ingredient list. The FDA does not require companies to disclose ingredients used to make fragrances in products like bath bombs in order to protect company "trade secrets (1)." Many synthetic and natural fragrances also include such hormone-disrupting chemicals as phthalates, which can be absorbed through the skin and have been found to pose specific risks for pregnant women and children (2). Studies have also linked health effects of phthalates to miscarriage, gestational diabetes, reduced IQ, and ADHD with increased exposure to phthalates.

As for dyes, the evidence is limited when it comes to FDA approved dyes readily being absorbed through the skin. However, one study found that certain dyes may be absorbed after shaving (3). Also, young children often swallow water while bathing and ingestion of some of these chemicals for young children is definitely not recommended!

Boric acid also has some side effects that you may not want to risk. It can be absorbed through the mucous membranes and has been linked to hormone disruption and developmental and reproductive toxicity (4). And then there is glitter, which is just more plastic that can end up in our lakes, rivers, and streams.

Alternatives and DIY Recipes

While there may be harmful ingredients in some bath bombs, you don't have to give them up! It's easy to avoid these ingredients with just a little extra effort. You can choose to purchase "fragrance-free" or "phthalate-free" bath bombs, but making your own bath bomb is super easy. Here are also some DIY recipes to try at home.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • ½ cup citric acid
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup finely ground sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons almond oil (or apricot oil)
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of witch hazel
  • 1 teaspoon beet root powder
  • wild orange essential oil
  • rose essential oil

Directions

  • Blend all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Blend wet ingredients in another bowl.
  • Combine all ingredients.
  • Place in mold of choice or just form a ball about 1-2 inches in diameter.
  • Allow the bath bombs to dry for approximately 1-2 days.
  • To use, place bath bomb in the bath.
  • To store, place in airtight container. Storing in a refrigerator can allow the bath bombs to keep for about 3 weeks (5).


References

1.https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/fragrances-cosmetics

2.https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp73-c1.pdf
3.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23127598
4.https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Boric-acid#section=Health-Hazardhttps://draxe.com/health/are-bath-bombs-safe/
5.https://draxe.com/beauty/diy-bath-bomb-recipe/
6. https://homemadeforelle.com/bath-bombs-for-kids/#Ingredients
Life

The Hidden Risk in Store-Bought Slime

Avoid this hazardous ingredient with our own DIY slime recipe

Slime seems to be the hottest new toy for kids. They love that it's a tactile toy they can squeeze and smash. But before you rush out to buy a new tub of gooey slime on your next shopping trip, have you ever wondered what's actually in it? Turns out, there's a not-so-kid-friendly ingredient lurking in many slime products sold in stores, as well as in some DIY kits and recipes.

What's So Bad About Boron?

Boron is a chemical commonly used in many brands of slime, DIY kits, and some DIY recipes to give it that rubbery texture. While it may feel fun, it's actually not great for our health. Boron is an acute eye, respiratory tract, and nasal irritant and is harmful if swallowed (1). If ingested, it can also cause nausea and vomiting (2). Long-term exposure to boron can also cause negative reproductive health effects (3, 4). The problems with boron don't stop once you throw slime away either. It turns out that boron lasts a long time in the environment and has hazardous effects on aquatic life (5).

To make matters worse, there's a lot more boron in slime than there should be. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) recently tested different brands of slime and found concentrations as high as 4700 parts per million (ppm) of boron, (6) which is more than fifteen times the allowable level for toys sold in the European Union (300 ppm for sticky/liquid toys) (6). Canada, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates have even instituted policies limiting or banning boron in children's toys (6).

Safe Slime

Luckily, it's easy to make your own boron-free slime. We like this recipe for full-proof slime that substitutes boron/borax (a boron compound that's found in a lot of other slime recipes) with cornstarch and school glue. We guarantee your kids will still have hours of fun with this non-toxic slime!

Fluffy Volcano Slime

  1. Pour 1/4 cup white school glue and a 1/2 cup of cornstarch in a bowl
  2. Add 3 drops of food coloring (optional)
  3. Mix well
  4. Knead it with your hands for 10 minutes
  5. Heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds
  6. Let it cool, then knead it for another 10 minutes (7)

References

2. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

3. https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+328

4. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf

5. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Boron

6. https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/WEB_USP_Toyland-Report_Nov18_2-1.pdf

7. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/make-slime-without-borax/

Roundups

15 Non-Toxic Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Fun, healthy, safe, and great for those budding imaginations

Updated for 2019!

You can pat yourself on the back for bringing these non-toxic toys into your home or gifting them to friends. These are the highest rated, healthiest toys for your growing little one. Not only did we make sure that the materials are safe, but we made sure parents like you love these toys. All the toys here are great for revving up their imagination and creativity and are made to last. If you're looking for something for a newborn or a baby under 1, here are our top picks for best non-toxic newborn toys.

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Roundups

15 Non-Toxic Toys for Newborns

healthy, safe toys for 0-1 years old

Updated for 2019!

Even before they can talk, babies know how to play. Sure, they will play with whatever is in front of them, but having their own toys is way more fun, and saves things like your watch from being covered in slobber. Here are some of the highest rated, healthiest toys out there, but be sure to check out our roundup of toy brands, too. If you're looking for something for someone a bit older, here are our picks for best non-toxic toys for toddlers.

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