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Is Cooking with Aluminium Foil a Health Risk?

Cooking and baking with aluminum foil is fast and convenient, and makes cleaning up so much quicker, but it’s not without health risks. The first use of foil in was in the early twentieth century, when it was used to wrap sweets and chewing gum. Inevitably, aluminum foil made its way into kitchens as a way to to line pans and to trap steam when cooking. The issue is however that cooking with aluminium foil is a health risk, and some of the aluminium in the foil used in cooking, baking, and grilling leaches into your food, which can pose health problems over time.

Cooking with Aluminium Foil is a Health Risk

According to the World Health Organization, human bodies are capable of properly releasing small amounts of aluminum efficiently, so it’s considered safe to ingest 40mg per kilogram of body weight of aluminum per day, however many people are ingesting far more than this. Researchers have been looking at the potential threat of overexposure to aluminum on human health for years, and have found some disturbing results. As an example, researchers have found high concentrations of aluminum in the brain tissue of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also found that high aluminum intake may be linked to a reduction in the growth rate of human cells, and may be potentially harmful for patients with bone diseases or renal impairment.

The Evidence

A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Electrochemical Science investigated the amount of aluminum that leaches into food cooked with foil. The amount varied based on factors such as temperature and acidity (fish and tomatoes are highly acidic), but the findings showed conclusively that aluminum foil does leach into food cooked in foil. “Aluminum foil used in cooking provides an easy channel for the metal to enter the human body,” the study authors wrote. “The increase in cooking temperature causes more leaching. The leaching is also highly dependent on the pH value of the food solution, salt, and spices added to the food solutions.”

Ghada Bassioni, Associate Professor and Head of the Chemistry Division at Ain Shams University, conducted research with a group of colleagues that explored the use of aluminum for cooking and preparing food particularly at high temperatures. “The acidity of the food would enhance further leaching of aluminum into the meal,” she said, adding: “How aluminum will actually harm your body depends on many factors like your overall well-being and consequently how much your body can handle accumulation of it in relation to the allowable dosages set by the World Health Organization.”

So What Then?

So, the big question is should you stop cooking with aluminum foil? It seems that the general consensus is that we should at the very least cut back quite dramatically. For example, when grilling vegetables, use a stainless steel grilling basket, or even reusable skewers. Use a glass pan when roasting veggies in the oven or use a stainless steel pan under baking potatoes as opposed to aluminum foil to catch the mess. Certainly, since its not in question that cooking with aluminium foil is a health risk, it makes sense to avoid cooking the most acidic foods such as fish and tomatoes in tin foil.