Tin foil is essential for any good barbecue or picnic. And while it’s a good tool for baking, roasting, and storing food, it has some serious health risks that are worth mentioning.
Aluminum Foil Dangers
When aluminum foil comes into direct contact with food, these foods absorb the metal. Cooking at high heat leads to even more leaching. Since aluminum foil is almost exclusively used for cooking and baking, it’s a serious cause for concern (1).
1. Brain Effects
As you may have heard, aluminum has a tendency to accumulate in the brain and other tissues, making aluminum exposure a serious risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders (2). Researchers have even found that the metal has the ability to reduce the growth rate of human brain cells (3).
Aluminum competes with calcium to interfere with bone remineralization. This leads to aluminum accumulating in the bones and high calcium levels in the blood. In turn, patients suffer from low bone density, decreased parathyroid hormone levels, and high risk of heart attack and stroke (4).
Aluminum can be inhaled in small quantities when cooking foil-wrapped foods over an open flame. Aluminum that makes its way into your body through inhalation is harder for your body to purge than aluminum that’s been ingested or that’s made its way into your body through your skin (5).
Sources Of Exposure
Aluminum exposure isn’t obvious if you don’t know the risks, so here are a few ways you may be poisoning yourself and your family.
Small pieces of aluminum may break off foil after unwrapping foil-covered food. Plus, heat creates little cracks in the foil and makes it more likely to break food and make its way into your food. These flakes aren’t necessarily visible to the naked eye, so you may not even know it’s there.
Acidic foods and spices stored in aluminum containers or used alongside the metal during cooking speed up the leaching process. In fact, Dr. Essam Zubaidy, a chemical engineering researcher at the American University of Sharjah, discovered that just one meal cooked with tin foil can leach 400 mg of aluminum (5).
“The higher the temperature, the more the leaching. Foil is not suitable for cooking and is not suitable for using with vegetables like tomatoes, citrus juice or spices,” said Dr. Zubaidy.
However, the World Health Organization warns that the daily maximum safe ingestion level should not exceed 1 mg/kg of body weight (6).
What You Can Do
You can’t completely cut your aluminum intake if you eat processed foods, eat at restaurants, or live near industrial factories. Produce and tap water also contain alarming levels of the metal.
Here are a few things you can do to limit your exposure:
- Don’t cook food with aluminum foil. Instead, use porcelain or cast iron bakeware.
- Don’t store any spices or acidic foods in aluminum.
- Replace aluminum foil with wax paper when baking or storing hot foods.
- Store leftovers in glass reusable containers.
- Replace aluminum pots and pans as well as cooking utensils with stainless steel.
- Filter tap water to remove any heavy metals.
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