At this time of year, we’re slaving over a hot stove. But are there hidden health risks in your cooking equipment?

Microwaves

Is there any truth in the old scare story about microwave ovens emitting radiation and damaging fertility? Microwaves do cook using electromagnetic radiation, but there’s no radiation in the food itself. As soon as the oven switches off, the radiation stops. It’s possible that some could leak outif the door is damaged or doesn’t seal properly, but there’s absolutely no evidence that it causes fertility problems.

What to do

Check the door regularly and don’t run the microwave when it’s empty.

Aluminium pans

Fears about a link between aluminium cookware and Alzheimer’s were sparked by the claim that the brains of people with the disease contained higher concentrations of the metal than other people’s brains. The Alzheimer’s Society says that aluminium’s prevalence in society makes it difficult to draw a definitive conclusion, but that it’s “increasingly unlikely” that the mineral causes Alzheimer’s. The bottom line is, there’s no evidence but no one is 100 per cent sure.

What to do

Choose stainless steel over aluminium pans, if you’re still concerned.

Non-stick cookware

There have been worries about non-stick coatings causing cancer for a few years now. This is because a chemical used to manufacture it (PFOA) is considered by the US Environmental Protection Agency as a “likely carcinogen”. Concerns have been voiced that the material scratches off cheaper pans and you might eat the bits, and a potentially carcinogenic vapour is released.

What to do

Choose only good-quality pans and, preferably, buy stainless steel.

Plastic wrap

There are persistent rumours about cling film being bad for you, especially when heated in a microwave. One story is that it can release “foreign” oestrogens that can disrupt reproduction. Verdict? Not proven. Another concern is that the PVC in plastic wrap may break down to release a potent liver carcinogen. But it’s produced in such low levels, it’s unlikely to pose much of a risk.

What to do

It’s unlikely cling film will cause you problems unless it’s heated to the point of melting. Remember, carcinogens and other toxic substances occur naturally, everywhere. So don’t worry too much and enjoy your dinner!

Susannah is twice winner of the Guild of Health Writers Best Consumer Magazine Health Feature