Air fryers are touted as a much healthier alternative to traditional deep fryers. However, it is smark to look into any potential health or safety concerns any time we bring a new device into our homes — especially when they impact the foods we put in our bodies.
In general, air fryers are not dangerous and are safe to use in your home. Like anything that generates high heat levels, like your oven and stove, it should be used and stored according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid home fires or burns.
To make sure you are using your air fryer safely, be sure to read through the user manual before you use it for the first time, and keep it on hand in case you have any questions about how to use your air fryer properly.
Air fryers do not give off any radiation or use radiation to generate heat. While microwaves use microwave radiation (electromotive force) to heat food, air fryers work by using fans to circulate hot air and droplets.
There is no evidence that air fryers or air-fried food cause cancer. Years ago rumors spread that cooking food with a microwave could cause cancer, but that too is unfounded in science and has repeatedly been disproven.
So if there is no research showing that air fryers cause cancer, why do some air fryers have a proposition 65 (cancer) warning?
In California, proposition 65 requires businesses to warn Californians about chemicals in their products that can cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. A proposition 65 warning is required whenever a product is made with any of over 900 chemicals, and the warning doesn’t have to specify which chemical is used.
So, if air fryers are safe to use and do not cause cancer, why do they have this warning?
This is what the Ninja brand had to say about their Prop 65 warning and the safety of their products in a reply to a question on Amazon:
We would like you to know that the Ninja® Air Fryer does have the Proposition 65 warning. We would like you to know that we are required by law in the state of California to include the California Prop 65 Warning. We include the warning in abundance of caution and to comply with this California warning mandate. The mere presence of even one of over 900 chemicals requires this warning and since it is not feasible to test for every single chemical, we're including the label with our products. Please rest assured that all SharkNinja products are in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.
Kalorik, another air fryer and small kitchen appliance brand, says that they can’t meet California’s burden of proof that the exposure levels from their product are 1000x less than the technical “safe” level, which is incredibly costly to do for every product.
So, a proposition 65 warning doesn’t even necessarily mean that the air fryer contains harmful chemicals, in some cases, it just means that the company can’t afford to prove that they don’t contain harmful chemicals.
Manufacturers don’t specify which chemicals their products contain in unsafe quantities, but aside from not being able to prove that they don’t contain chemicals, most people speculate that air fryers have prop 65 warnings because cooking at high heat and re-using oil can produce acrylamide, a chemical that can increase the risk of developing cancer.
Whether an air fryer has a prop 65 warning or not has less to do with whether or not it’s safe to use, and more to do with the locations the air fryers will be distributed and sold in. Prop 65 is specific to the state of California, so a brand may sell the exact same model of air fryer to Californians with the prop 65 warning as they sell to non-Californian residents without the prop 65 warning.
A prop 65 warning also doesn’t necessarily mean the device contains a harmful chemical, in some cases it means that they can’t prove that they don’t contain any of over 900 chemicals.
In the case of acrylamide, its presence depends less on the materials that the air fryer is made of, and more on how high of a heat you are cooking with and how long you are exposing your food to such high heat.
Like anything that gets to a very high temperature including your oven or stove, it is possible that your air fryer can cause a fire. Typically this only happens if you are not using your air fryer according to the manufacturer's guidelines and recommendations.
One thing to keep in mind is that most air fryers need to be at least 6” from other surfaces because they use fans to circulate air. If you put your air fryer in a tightly enclosed space such as a cubby or a cabinet, it can overheat to such an extent that it explodes or starts a fire.
Here are other things to avoid when using your air fryer. (Hint: most of these also apply to any other appliance like your oven or stove).
Unlike the microwave oven, any oven-proof dish that fits appropriately in your air fryer is safe to use — including metals. Make sure that your cookware is safe up to 500 degrees. Also, ensure that the dish you are using does not inhibit the proper circulation of air within your air fryer.
One of the reasons air fryers have become so popular recently is because they are seen as a “healthy” alternative to deep frying. While there is no universal definition of what makes food healthy or unhealthy, cooking with an air fryer can greatly reduce the amount of oil and fat in the foods that you are cooking.