Aluminium or aluminum pots and pans are commonplace sights in a modern kitchen. But are there any potential dangers to making use of them? Have you heard rumors of aluminum intake being linked to serious illnesses? We’ll be sure to give you the details and let you know what’s what in this article.
Is An Aluminum Or Aluminium Pot Safe To Cook With?
Rest assured, aluminum pots are considered perfectly safe for use. It’s true enough that high doses of aluminum intake are a serious health risk. However, the tiny amount that would get into your food or drink through the use of pots and pans is harmless.
According to the ATSDR, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, consuming aluminum is unavoidable. They say it’s the most abundant metal you can find in the Earth’s crust. It frequently gets into water and soil, making it all but impossible to avoid intaking some aluminum each day.
They also state that humans only absorb anywhere from 0.01 to 5 percent of the aluminum that they ingest. That’s the very small amount of it that would actually manage to get into your bloodstream. Now combine that with how small a dose the pans are actually giving you. From there you can see that the consumption of that little aluminum is minuscule and benign.
As such, the only people who have to worry about aluminum intake are those with an occupational exposure. That is to say, people who end up breathing in a ton of metal dust without wearing the proper protection. Certainly not you or your family as you sit down for dinner!
Cooking With Aluminum
In case you’re curious, aluminum and aluminium are one and the same, no difference there, just British vs. American English. We’ll be using the word ‘aluminum’ more often than not in this article to avoid confusion.
There are a lot of pros to aluminum for sure. It’s one of the most popular materials out there when it comes to frying pans, and for good reason. It’s very light in weight, relatively cheap, and really solid when it comes to heat distribution. It’s also oven safe, with some caveats.
That means that it heats up evenly and quickly, although it doesn’t do the best job of retaining that temperature. As more food is added to the burning pan, that means the heat levels tend to fluctuate a bit. It’s also a very soft metal, meaning it scratches and dents easily when compared to other pans.
One thing to note though is that bare aluminum is very rarely used with cookware. This is due to its reactivity to acid. That is to say that acidic foods will end up eating into the metal of an aluminum pot. However many pots that you might purchase will be anodized on the outside to help prevent this.
Is It True That Aluminum Pots Can Cause Cancer?
Here’s what we can tell for certain. Decades ago, studies came out connecting aluminum intake to cancer. That much is true and stems from several incidents with the workers at aluminum plants. What’s more, other studies have looked into whether antiperspirants are linked to breast cancer. That is because antiperspirants often contain aluminum.
So yes, a high enough intake of the stuff is severely dangerous, that’s no joke. However, it’s just as we outlined earlier: pots and pans aren’t giving you much of an intake.
It goes without saying that those plant workers were exposed to far more of the stuff than the average person. That isn’t to say that there’s no reason to worry about aluminum intake. But the use of pots and pans isn’t going to be the thing that causes you health issues.
What About Alzheimer’s Disease? Isn’t That Also Linked To Aluminum?
Much like cancer, this is a concern with some scientific studies behind it. It dates back to the 60s and 70s. The fear stems from high concentrations of aluminum being found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. However, follow-up studies failed to find any conclusive evidence as to this link.
Today, this is largely regarded as a myth and even the Alzheimer’s Association agrees with this. Their website states that few experts today believe any daily aluminum source poses any real threat of causing the disease.
Even if there was a major link between Alzheimer’s and aluminum intake, pots, pans, and aluminum cans are unlikely culprits. Once again, it’d be down to direct exposure more than anything.
What Is A Safe Amount Of Aluminum Intake?
It will likely make things easier if we put an exact number to this. The World Health Organization – WHO – has estimated a safe upper limit for daily aluminum consumption in adults. That limit is set at 50mg. The average amount that we consume from pots and pans is around 1-2mg.
For perspective, the total average daily aluminum intake for adults is said to be about 10mg. So that should give you an idea of how little of a factor aluminum pots are here. Compare this as well to some antacid tablets, which can contain as much as 200mg!
Tips To Limit Aluminum Dietary Intake
If you’re still concerned after reading all that, we can certainly give you some advice. Here are some of our tips on how to avoid taking in too much aluminum.
If you want to stick with aluminum, but lessen your risks…
- Make sure you’re choosing an anodized pot or pan. These are more sturdy than the bare aluminum choice. This means there’s less chance of the metal dissolving. It also means there’s a layer of protection between the aluminum and your food!
- You can also simply choose to avoid using these pots for acidic foods. Take acidic foods out of your diet, or just make use of alternative pots for specific dishes. This obviously completely does away with the risk of acidic foods eating into aluminum pots and pans.
- Store the food somewhere other than your aluminum pots. Any alternative will do, be it stainless steel, glass or ceramic pot, or a Tupperware bowl.
Or, if you want to ditch aluminum…
- There’s no shortage of alternate materials used for pots and pans. Stainless steel, cast iron, clay, and copper pots are all solid choices.
- Keep in mind other aluminum cookware, as many utensils are also aluminum-based. If you want to go the whole nine yards and get aluminum out of your kitchen, don’t forget the forks and knives.
- Be mindful of aluminum foil too! If you are keeping it, you might want to avoid cooking food while it’s wrapped within it. There’s actually more danger of infusing food with aluminum that way than by using a pot!
At the end of the day, only you can decide whether or not you’re comfortable with aluminum pots or pans. But we’ll say that all of the science suggests that concerns about them are likely overblown.
The aluminum intake from pots and pans is pretty minuscule in the long run. You shouldn’t be too scared if you’ve been cooking with them all along and only today learned of these risks. At least that’s our advice.
Even so, there’s nothing wrong with being cautious and going with an alternative instead. Be mindful though that what we’ve talked about here can apply to other metals as well.
Consuming something that came in contact with metal might mean consuming small amounts of that metal. That isn’t something that’s purely specific to aluminum. So if you’re looking into alternatives, make sure to research them just the same.
Ultimately, we say don’t rush to throw out all your pots and pans and utensils in a panic. But it’s always fair to weigh other options!