We know you keep your kitchen clean and neat, but chemicals that can harm your family’s health could be lurking in places you’d never expect. By some estimates, we’re exposed to more than 2 million man-made chemicals every day. We don’t even know what most of them are doing to us because they haven’t been fully researched. Here are five ways to avoid exposure to some of the known offenders.

Improve Ventilation

If your kitchen smells funny, you know the air quality isn’t so great. Poor ventilation can also lead to a buildup of toxic airborne chemicals which you can’t sniff out. The result could lead to respiratory problems, allergic reactions, or worse. In fact, every year more than 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning. This odorless, colorless gas builds up when a stove or other gas-burning appliance isn’t working right. A professional can fix these problems by repairing or replacing your HVAC system and adding air purifiers to keep your kitchen’s atmosphere fresh, clean, and safe.

Toss Non-stick Pots and Pans

Image via Flickr by yourbestdigs

There’s simply nothing good about cooking with Teflon-coated pans. Their coatings can chip and flake into food and release toxic fumes when heated. Teflon is a type of PFC (perfluorinated chemical) which can cause high cholesterol, inflammation, immunity problems, fertility issues, thyroid disease, and on and on. The best advice is to replace them with stainless steel, glass, or cast-iron cookware.

Make Your Own Cleaners

Reading the labels of standard household cleaners is the first clue that they’re chock full of dangerous chemicals. Why spend the money on them anyway, when you can mix up custom cleaners that are safe and effective? Fill a spray bottle with water, add 1 teaspoon Borax powder, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and dish soap and you’ve got a versatile solution that kills bacteria and shines surfaces. For windows, mix one part white vinegar to nine parts water. To disinfect your child’s toys, add a few drops of non-chlorine bleach to a gallon of water.

Don’t Use Plastic Containers

Plastic storage containers often contain BPA (Bisphenol-A). This chemical is linked to infertility, depression, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Some plastic containers are made with PET (polyethylene terephthalate), a carcinogen which can leach into food and liquids. It’s better to store leftovers in glass or ceramic containers. Never heat foods in plastic because heating causes even more of these chemicals to transfer into food.

Avoid Aluminum

Cooking with aluminum foil has been linked to degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Heating foods in foil can increase their aluminum levels by more than 300 percent. Aluminum-coated pans, cans, and water bottles can also leach this harmful metal. The best advice is to use glass or steel cookware and don’t buy anything consumable in an aluminum container.

For better health, it really pays to know about those nasty chemicals hiding in our kitchens. The good news is that we can eliminate them by making better choices plus keeping our HVAC system properly maintained.