"Are air fryers toxic?" is a question echoing in the minds of many health-conscious consumers lately. What was once hailed as the revolutionary appliance of the decade, air fryers are now under the microscope for their safety standards.
With an overwhelming sea of information online, discerning fact from fiction becomes a daunting task. Many are left wondering about the potential health risks associated with these popular kitchen gadgets.
However, it's essential to understand that the impact of our dietary choices often outweighs the methods used to prepare them. Air frying, when viewed holistically, doesn't stand out as more harmful than other cooking techniques.
So, while some skeptics remain, the potential toxicity from your air fryer shouldn't be your primary concern. If the journey to optimal health is the goal, there might be other lifestyle and dietary changes that deserve more attention than the debate over air fryers.
Why Are Air Fryers Thought to be Toxic?
The biggest area of concern is whether air fryers produce harmful compounds that have adverse effects on your health. The toxins in question include BPAS, PFOAS, PFAS, and acrylamide consumption.
What Is BPA?
Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical that has been used since the 1950s to make certain plastics and resins. These BPA epoxy resins are sometimes used to coat the inside of kitchen appliances, but you'll also find BPA in your water bottles, feminine hygiene products, canned goods, and water pipes.
Some suggest that the intricate plastic parts of the air fryer contain BPA, and these BPA epoxy resins release harmful chemicals into your food as a result of the cooking processes.
While studies reveal that BPA has adverse health effects on the brain and prostate glands of unborn babies and children, as well as a suspected link between BPA and high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, the Food and Drug Administration claims that BPA is safe at low levels.
Although your air fryer may contain some BPA, eliminating it from your counter space will have little impact on your overall health, given the abundance of BPA materials encountered in daily life.
What Is PFOA?
PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, is a byproduct of fluoropolymers used in heat-resistant silicone utensils and non-stick coatings designed to resist grease, heat, oil, and water.
These 'forever chemicals' don't break down, and increased exposure can affect reproduction, development, and growth, as well as cause liver damage.
The most vilified manufacturer of PFOA products is DuPont (Teflon), which allegedly knew of these potentially harmful chemicals back in 1961. Eventually, DuPont discontinued its use of PFOA in 2013, but not all manufacturers have done so.
When these non-stick coatings are heated to temperatures above 400° F (204° C), these PFOAS seep into your air-fried food and gradually infiltrate the blood, liver, and kidneys.
The CDC confirms that PFOA exposure is pretty high within the United States. Because of public health concerns, the EPA is working towards minimizing the impact and has declared a lifetime health advisory as more studies are revealing harmful effects.
Unfortunately, PFOA is unavoidable. It's in your carpet, clothing, makeup, food containers, and even food itself. Your air fryer is likely the least of your worries.
What Are PFAS?
Another 'forever chemical,' per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances are widely used in an abundance of consumer and industrial products, including many air fryers. These PFAS coatings are also found in cookware, bakeware, and many other kitchen appliances.
People with high exposure to PFA are more likely to develop cancer, and pregnant women are more likely to develop preeclampsia. Research also shows vaccines are far less effective because high levels of PFAS weaken the immune response to vaccines.
Unfortunately, you're just as likely to find PFAS chemicals in your drinking water or garden soil as you are from cooking food in your air fryer. PFAs are pretty much everywhere and would require much more than just getting rid of your air fryer to have any significant effect.
What Is Acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a substance that is naturally present and forms as a result of chemical reactions between the sugars of plant-based foods and amino acids when food is cooked at high temperatures.
But this isn't exclusive to air frying and occurs in most forms of cooking, including deep frying, roasting, grilling, and baking.
Acrylamide content is usually high in fried starchy foods that have a lot of sugar or amino acids, like potato chips, french fries, other deep-fried foods, and even coffee beans.
Although there is no substantial evidence of toxicity to humans, the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives, the US National Toxicology Program, and the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization all consider acrylamide to be concerning secondary to lab studies performed on rats.
Is Acrylamide Avoidable?
Acrylamide can be avoided by adjusting your diet and the way you cook food. The good news is that when you air fry meat or fish, you don't have to worry about acrylamide too much.
According to the FDA, when you are air frying food like your favorite chicken wings and other meats, acrylamide will either form at much lower levels or not at all.
Acrylamide is more likely to occur in certain foods like starchy vegetables or processed foods. By air frying these foods at lower temperatures or for shorter periods, you can minimize the formation of acrylamide in your air fryer.
Otherwise, you can steam or boil your starchy vegetables instead of using your air fryer oven or deep frying since acrylamide is much less likely to occur with these cooking processes.
Likewise, by avoiding cooking spray and oils with low smoke points, acrylamide formation is less likely to occur. The truth is, however, that a cigarette can produce smoke with more harmful acrylamide than any food you consume. So using your air fryer or toaster oven doesn't warrant much concern in comparison.
The much larger concern is the increased blood sugar, triglycerides, and obesity that results from eating these foods.
Because air fryers work by using hot air to heat food, giving you a deep-fried taste without all the grease, air fryers are far more beneficial than any minute acrylamide formation that might occur from using them.
Are Air Fryers Toxic?
While your air fryer may produce toxins or other potentially harmful chemicals, these levels are relatively small in comparison to many other things in your environment.
They don't pose any more of a threat than the water that comes from your faucet or the packaging that your fast food comes in.
These toxins are literally everywhere around us and are not exclusive to air fryers. If it's overly concerning, however, there are ways to ensure your air fryer isn't posing any potential health risks.
Since evidence suggests an increased risk of these 'forever chemicals' leaching into your food with high temperatures, avoid cooking foods above 400° F (204°C).
Also, double-check your air fryer for any damaged non-stick coating. If there are any signs of peeling or scratching, your air fryer is more prone to releasing these harmful chemicals.
You can help prevent your non-stick coating from peeling or scratching by using wooden or silicone utensils and avoiding any abrasive sponges.
Do Non-Toxic Air Fryers Exist?
In the interest of poison control, you can minimize these nasty toxins with a non-toxic air fryer that is made of ceramic or stainless steel.
While most air fryers use 'forever chemicals' in their manufacturing process, the best air fryers use a ceramic coating, enameled glass, or stainless steel in their food contact surfaces to provide a non-stick material.
Unfortunately, even the ceramic non-stick air fryer is beginning to generate some concerns because of its nanotechnology. Most companies that use ceramic non-stick coatings use proprietary blends, making it difficult to know exactly what you're getting.
Since ceramic-coated nanotechnology is fairly new, the long-term implications are pretty much unknown, but we do know that nanoparticles tend to congregate around organs, which can be alarming.
While the current evidence is insufficient, there's at least enough to warrant concern.
Separating Fact from Fiction
While the safest air fryers utilize glass or stainless steel, tossing out your air fryer over these 'forever chemicals' is pretty pointless. While many air fryers contain these harmful compounds, so do many other things that you can't get rid of.
Unless you're willing to give your life a complete overhaul, tossing your air fryer will have very little to no impact. Upgrading your air fryer to stainless steel, avoiding excessively high temperatures, and changing the way you cook starchy vegetables can reduce exposure to BPAS, PFOAS, and PFAS without sacrificing your convenience.
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