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The kitchen is considered by many to be the heart of a home, a place where families gather. You may be surprised to learn that some common kitchen items can actually make your family sick. Find out if your kitchen contains any of these 10 harmful things.
Believe it or not, the kitchen is actually one of the dirtiest rooms in the home, even dirtier than most bathrooms. There are more germs lurking around our kitchen countertops and cooking surfaces than there are on our bathroom floors. Surprised? Consider that in addition to the possibility of certain foods making you sick, there are other common items in your kitchen that can do the same.

The kitchen sponge is a petri dish full of bacteria, viruses, mold, yeast and other germs. Think about how many times you reach for the kitchen sponge throughout the day. Now think about how many times you properly clean that sponge when you are done using it to clean up harmful bacteria and other germs. Herein lies the problem. Every time you pick up your sponge to wipe down a counter or clean a dish, the germs that are absorbed by the sponge quickly multiply.

Now, the next time you use that sponge, you are spreading those germs all over the surface you are trying to clean. The more you clean with that sponge, the more germs you pick up and spread around. While many germs aren’t necessarily dangerous, some, such as Salmonella and E. coli, can make you very sick. Always make sure you clean your sponge properly after each use. Place the wet sponge in the microwave and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Alternately, dip your sponge into a solution of equal parts water and bleach. Always let sponges air dry after use and be sure to replace your sponge every 2 weeks.

Cutting Boards

No matter what ingredient you have to slice up, the first thing you’re likely to reach for is your cutting board. But while your cutting board can protect your countertops from scratches, it can also make you sick. When you use the cutting board to cut up raw poultry, meat or fish, bacteria from those uncooked foods can linger on the board even after it has been washed. The next day when you use that same cutting board to slice up your fresh veggies or a loaf of bread, those bacteria can contaminate your food. The solution? Simply use one cutting board for raw meats and another cutting board for vegetables, breads and cooked foods.

Non-Stick Cookware

Many non-stick cookware items get their non-stick coating from dangerous chemicals known as PFOA. These chemicals are released into the air when cookware reaches high temperatures. They can leach into foods that are cooked in them and if the cookware is scratched, bits of the coating can flake off into the food. PFOA chemicals are hormone disrupters that are associated with a variety of health problems and have been linked to cancer. Opt for safer cookware options such as glass, stainless steel or cast iron.

Antibacterial Kitchen Soaps

While antibacterial soaps may be a more effective way to fight germs and eliminate bacteria than regular kitchen soaps, they are also more likely to make you sick. Many antibacterial soaps contain the chemical pesticide triclosan, which can disrupt hormones and interfere with normal thyroid function. In addition, these soaps have been identified as partially to blame for the development of drug resistant superbugs. Opt for regular soaps or alcohol-based hand sanitizers instead.

Air Fresheners

Many people rely on air fresheners to cover up cooking odors. The problem with air fresheners, whether sprays, candles, gels or plug-ins, is that they are full of harmful chemical ingredients that can cause a variety of health problems such as eye irritation, asthma, allergies and wheezing. They have also been linked to the development of cancer and hormonal imbalance. To get rid of kitchen odors, try using pure essential oils, cinnamon sticks, incense or beeswax candles instead.

Kitchen Cleaners

Many commercial cleaning solutions contain dangerous hormone-disrupting chemicals and toxic carcinogens. These cleaners can irritate the eyes, nose, lungs and skin. They can trigger allergy and asthma attacks and some can be very dangerous if inhaled without proper ventilation. Instead of exposing yourself to these harmful cleaning agents, opt for all natural cleaners that rely on natural vegetable oils and non-toxic surfactants for their cleaning power. Alternately, make your own cleaning solution form water, vinegar and baking soda.

The refrigerator

Most people are not in the habit of regularly checking the temperature in their refrigerator. By not doing so, you are putting yourself at risk of getting sick. Colder temperatures can help prevent bacteria from growing on food. For this reason, refrigerator temperatures should never rise above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Kitchen Cabinets

Depending on the material used to make your kitchen cabinets, they may contain high levels of formaldehyde. Particleboard cabinets that are made with UF binders are more likely to trap moisture and humidity. When this happens, the particleboard can start to break down, releasing toxic formaldehyde into the air. Not sure what materials your cabinets are made from?

Contact the manufacture, who will be able to answer any questions. If you do not know the manufacturer, consider hiring an environmental home specialist to come in and check your cabinetry for toxic chemicals.