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Nylon cooking utensils are one of the common types of kitchen utensils you’ll find in the store. In fact, a simple Amazon search would give you over 800 products related to nylon utensils. But are they really safe for cooking and your health? I’ve done extensive research and here’s what I found.
Are nylon cooking utensils safe? Nylon cooking utensils may not be the healthiest and safest kitchen tools. They can only withstand up to 400°F and melt at higher temperatures. Upon melting, harmful components may leak out of the utensils and contaminate the food, leading to certain health conditions.
However, you can avoid the risk and protect yourself and your family against the toxic chemicals by taking necessary precautionary measures.
Are nylon cooking utensils safe?
Nylons are polyamides made of several repeating units joined by amide linkages and are widely used for food contact materials.
You can find several cooking utensils, including barbeque tongs, turners, and spatulas, made of nylon available on the market.
Because they will not scratch this type of cookware, which allows you to nurture a longer relationship with your delicate, prone-to-scratch cookware.
They are also flexible and scrape corners more efficiently.
Despite being flexible, they are rigid and strong enough to stir anything you bake or cook. So they are great for cooking fish.
Most importantly, they are easy to maintain and care for.
You can clean them by hand with ordinary dishwashing detergent or even put them in the dishwasher and let the clever invention do all the hard work for you safely.
These great features and benefits are the reasons why many home cooks decided to opt for nylon utensils.
Still, nylon utensils might not be the healthiest and safest tool to have in your kitchen.
Nylon utensils are a type of plastic that has a low heat resistance and would likely to melt if you leave them in the pan when cooking.
But becoming distorted and ugly after melting is not the only thing you need to worry about.
What’s even more alarming about melted nylon utensils is that dangerous substances in the nylon can migrate to your food.
Your health can potentially be compromised when you end up eating the contaminated food.
So what are these harmful components?
Interesting fact: Unlike iron and wood, nylon is a thermoplastic that does not occur naturally, but it can be synthesized from natural or renewable substances. It is initially discovered and successfully made in the DuPont Chemicals lab by the organic chemist Wallace Crothers and his team of scientists back in 1935.
Hidden dangers of nylon utensils
There are two major concerns when it comes to nylon utensils safety, which includes:
- Primary Aromatic Amines
- Non-intentionally Added Substances
Let’s take a closer look at what these compounds are and how they affect your health.
Primary Aromatic Amines
The main toxic component you can find in the nylon kitchen equipment is the Primary Aromatic Amines or PAAs.
Their migration from food contact materials, such as food packaging and kitchen utensils, has always been a concern of the authorities.
In fact, between 2010 and 2015, over 25% of notifications created by Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed in the European Union were about the PAAs, with nylon (polyamide) cooking tools being the common source.
One derivative of PAAs called DDM (4,4’-diaminodiphenylmethane) is listed as carcinogenic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
DDM is also known as MDA (p,p’-methylenedianiline).
This substance is commonly used as an epoxy hardening agent and often found in the cooking utensils, especially in black nylons kitchen tools.
According to the CDC, studies on DDM revealed its possible association with some health conditions, including:
- Liver cirrhosis
- Spleen lesions
The first discovery of the hepatotoxic properties of DDM in humans was back in 1965, where an outbreak known as the Epping Jaundice occurred in Great Britain. The study was published in the British Medical Journal in 1966.
In that incident, 84 individuals have ingested DDM-contaminated bread and experienced hepatocellular damage.
Another study released in the New England Journal of Medicine reported 13 cases of hepatitis developed amongst young men who were exposed to epoxy resin made of DDM.
Horrifying, isn’t it?
But this is not the end of the story.
Nylon utensils contain another poisonous material (more on this below).
Non-intentionally Added Substances
In a recent study conducted by the BfR or the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the researchers found that nylon (polyamide) kitchen utensils may poison you and potentially damage your thyroid or liver.
These plastic tools are said to release harmful toxic byproducts called cyclic oligomers when exposed to heat beyond 70°C.
So where do these oligomers come from anyways?
Surprisingly, they are made unintentionally during plastic production.
Substances found in the food contact materials but are not included intentionally by the manufacturer are collectively named as non-intentionally added substances or NIAS.
NIAS can come from impurities and byproducts during the production process.
As for oligomers, they are products of the unwanted cyclic condensation reaction of 2 or more monomers used in nylon production.
Since oligomers are small, it is easy for them to migrate from the plastic into your food.
If you ingest a large amount of this manmade byproduct, you are at risk of getting liver or thyroid disorder, cancer, high cholesterol, and may even become infertile.
According to the researchers, consuming as little as 90 0 μg of these chemicals is enough to harm the health of people weighing 60 kg.
Due to these concerns, the BfR urges the German authorities to specifically investigated two distinct oligomers, PA 6 and PA 6,6, which are commonly used in the manufacturing of kitchen utensils.
The scientists evaluated data from research conducted between 2016 and 2017.
They looked into how PA oligomers from polyamide cooking equipment, including spatulas and whisks, manage to contaminate the food, as well as their potential effect.
Unexpectedly, they found that the quantity of PA oligomers migrating from the kitchen tools into foods was much higher than anticipated.
Their findings showed that 10 out the 33 tools they tested could easily go beyond the release limit of 5 mg/kg of food if several meals were prepared using them.
Other cons of nylons kitchen utensils
Aside from being potentially poisonous to your health, nylon utensils are not eco-friendly.
In one review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, a group of researchers from Japan studied the biodegradability of plastics.
They found that polyamide or nylon, particularly nylon 6 that is used to make kitchen utensils, has poor biodegradability when compared to polyesters.
Although some microorganisms can degrade nylon 6 oligomers, they fail to degrade nylon polymers.
Nevertheless, more research is needed to verify the degradation of polyamides.
In addition, nylon kitchen gadgets are prone to crack, making it easy for food particles to stuck in between the tiny gap without you even noticing them!
Over time, the trapped particles, which are hard to remove even with diligent cleaning, would rot and may contaminate your fresh foods.
What can you do to reduce the risk with nylon utensils?
Although the potential health effects of these plastic utensils sound horrifying, experts said that the risk is actually quite small.
In the CDC studies, animal models that were showing adverse symptoms were actually exposed to a fairly significant amount of the chemicals.
Casual exposure to a much lower amount of these toxic substances, which is the case in these kitchen utensils, poses little to no risk at all.
Still, even if the risk is small, it doesn’t mean that it does not exist. Their presence is unsettling.
Here’s what the experts advised you to do to reduce your risk of exposure to these harmful substances:
- Avoid using nylon and plastic altogether when preparing your meals
- If you already have them at home and reluctant to throw them out or still planning to buy one, then try to reduce the time of contact between your nylon utensils and the food, especially when cooking with high temperatures of more than 70°C
- Never use nylon kitchen gadgets that have cracks or already melted
- Look for nylon utensils that can withstand at least 450°F of heat
Best nylon cooking utensils alternatives: 3 safest cooking utensils
The following are three of the best non-toxic kitchen utensils you can opt for to safeguard your health:
- Bamboo cooking utensils: Bamboo cooking utensils, especially those made of organic bamboo like this popular kitchen utensil set, are an excellent substitute for plastic nylon tools. They are warping-resistant, eco-friendly, easy-to-clean, and less porous. They also contain natural antibacterial components. Hence, they are less likely to result in cross-contamination. They work especially well with cast iron skillet.
- Stainless steel kitchen tools: Stainless steel utensils like this one are rust and corrosion-resistant, which makes them a great choice for cooking. They work especially well for griddle cooking as well as flat baking sheets as they tend to distribute heat uniformly across their surface
- Wooden utensils: Wooden kitchen tools can be amazing essentials for your kitchen. They are made of sustainable materials and have high durability. Similar to nylon utensils, they won’t scratch your non-stick cookware. They also have natural antibacterial effects. The most popular wooden utensils on Amazon are made of natural teak wood, which is resistant to water, warping, and cracking.
Which is better nylon or silicone cooking utensils?
Nylon and silicone cooking utensils are both made of polymers. Although nylon utensils are much cheaper compared to silicone utensils, the latter is more durable, inert, and can withstand a much higher heat of up to 600˚F before melting.
Are silicone cooking utensils safe?
The FDA considers silicone cooking utensils as safe for cooking and baking as long as they are not exposed to a high temperature that exceeds 572˚F. The silicone’s inert property ensures that no toxic fumes or chemicals would leak out from the utensils and contaminate the food.
Are bamboo utensils safe?
Bamboo utensils are non-toxic, safe, and more sustainable alternatives to plastic kitchen utensils. They are inexpensive, sturdy, lightweight, odor-resistant, eco-friendly, and possess natural germ-killing properties. They are also safe to use on cookware with a non-stick finish.