Don’t Trust Your Cookware to be Lead-Free – Test It!

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In 2002 I ordered a tagine from a vendor, online. I had made a point of communicating with the vendor first, to make sure that the tagine was lead-free. They assured me that not only was it lead-free, but that it was the same tagine that they supplied to restaurants all across the country. After cooking with it twice, and serving the food to both guests and my own family (including our young son), I decided to test it, and guess what? It had lead in it. Here’s our story.

After the tagine arrived, we cooked a family meal in it. Then we had friends over, and cooked another meal for them and our own family.

Then, after using it twice, a nagging concern made me go out and get a lead test kit.

The tagine tested positive.

Great, I’d cooked and served two meals, nearly back-to-back, which had included acidic foods (like tomatoes), likely to enhance the lead’s leaching into our food.

I figured that, still, with it being just two meals, the odds were low that we’d ingested enough lead to worry about – but I was concerned for our son, who was barely 3 years old at the time.

To be safe, I called poison control.

It was then that I got really concerned, because they advised me that we needed to get the whole family tested immediately. The intellectual side of me was saying “How could two uses possibly lead to a dangerous level”, but the emotional and mom side of me was terribly worried. Especially as cooking, and acidic foods (like the tomatoes we’d cooked in the tagine, twice) exacerbate the leaching.

So, I got tested. I wanted to be tested first, because I did not want to put our son through the trauma of a blood test. I figured my test would show no lead, and so we’d be fine.

Here is something I wrote when I received those test results:

“Well, my blood lead tests results are in, and while I do have a detectable blood level above trace, and by inference so would our son (we tested me first, to try and avoid the trauma to him of a blood test), it seemed certain that any level he had, even taking into account his much smaller mass, would not be high enough that they would actually *do* anything (which level would be 10 micrograms per decileter or higher; my level was 1.4). So we’re as reassured as we can be, under the circumstances, and darned thankful that we tested the bl**dy tagine before using it any further.”

Along the way, I learned more than I cared to about lead in the body. You (well, I) sort of take for granted basic, background knowledge, such as “don’t eat lead, it’s bad for you”. But when you start having to look at “exactly why is it bad”, “how much is truly bad”, “how can you undo the effects”, etc., it’s never that simple. Some interesting tidbits:

  • One of the reasons that lead is so nasty is that it closely mimics
    calcium, so your body’s calcium receptors snap it up. This also means that
    the level of calcium in your diet can influence how readily your body
    absorbs ingested lead (more actual calcium, somewhat less lead absorption).
  • The half-life for lead in the blood is actually relatively short (30
    days, if I recall correctly – much of what I gleaned was from hours of
    phone calls to many state/local/federal/medical authorities). This is why
    chronic exposure is so much worse than an isolated exposure – which will
    work its way out of the system.
  • Lead is also stored in the bones, as it readily crosses the blood/bone
    barrier. The bones and blood work to achieve equilibrium, so that as the
    lead leaves your blood system, the lead stored in your bones will be
    released into your blood stream until the levels again achieve equilibrium
    (same levels in blood and bones) – I actually found this fascinating. Our
    pediatrician told us that this is generally true, not just for things such
    as lead – this principle is actually fairly well-known to anyone who has
    taken some level of X sciences, but I hadn’t, so I found it fascinating.
  • Lead does not readily cross the blood/brain barrier, and so once it
    gets into the brain, it is believed that it will never leave the brain
    (absent chelation, which may, or may not, work, and which is by most
    accounts horribly difficult to endure – which is why they will only
    consider it if you have a level of 10 or greater). It is also believed
    that it only gets into the brain at higher levels.
  • Mind you, I am a layperson to the extreme here, so do NOT take any of the
    above as gospel – it is just what one person learned/was told in the course
    of trying to find out what we could/should do about our own lead exposure.

    I of course called the merchant from whom we had purchased the tagine; I
    was fortunate enough to have the owner answer the phone when I called, so I
    was able to drop my little bombshell on her directly (“there’s lead in them
    thar tagines”). She seemed genuinely concerned and surprised, and refunded
    my purchase price immediately.

    Still, given that they had told me directly (in a previous call) that “these are the same tagines we sell to restaurants all over the country”, I felt it was serious enough that I tried to report it to the FDA, and local (to NYC, where the merchant is) health authorities.

    It took me 2 days to get through to anyone who seemed to care at either agency, and to be honest, even though I finally reached someone at both levels who seemed concerned, and took the details, I still wasn’t convinced that there wouild be any follow-up. Which was really frustrating.

    So, that’s our story. You can be sure that we are much more aware of lead now!

    Searches that led to this article: parini cookware,  

    9 thoughts on “Don’t Trust Your Cookware to be Lead-Free – Test It!

    1. -great stuff, thanks,mme Annie!
      -BTW, chelation therapy is not torture:
      you sit for 1hr with an IV drip,
      that’s it–>it has saved many lives,with none of the life-threatening side-effects of current protocols
      –alas, since there are no patentable drugs used,
      there’s no money to be made…
      -there’s lots of anecdotal evidence out there on the miracle of chelation as opposed to bigpharma’s ‘controlled'[stacked] trials which condemn it

    2. I have high lead/mercury, doing oral chelation with DMPS/DMSA + IV Vit C, also a chelator. Doesn’t seem horrible.

      Thanks for doing the home work on lead cookware. So far we have trown out all our cups and dinnerware after seeing “made in china” on the bottom. Repalced with lead-free ceramics. Le Crucet and Staub cookware are lead-free, but I have Calphalon enamel, can’t get an answer on it, so I will test it. Ordering LeadCheck test kit today!
      p.s. Your goats in coats are so cute!

    3. I purchase a Chinese made stainless steel camping coffee cup made by TEXSPORT Item # 13401, Description: “Insulated Stainless Steel Mug, 14 oz. Double-wall construction provides insulation 14 oz. capacity Will not burn lips or hands Lightweight and durable.” With a tiny white warning label with red helvetica fonts on white back ground about a quarter of an inch square on the bottom of the cup which stated “Warning this product has lead in it and may cause birth defects and brain damage along with other unknown hazards.” It was made in China or rather dipped in a dungeon vat of lead in China. The seller was Dicks Sports Goods located at 630 Old Country Road, Garden City, New York 11530 in Nassau county, Long Island and I spoke to a very dismissive “Apparel manager”; Mrs. Laura Cestra who ignorantly and stupidly trying to be the store lead expert who had no idea that I had a more extensive knowledge in metallurgy and never even heard the word before . They wouldn’t let me talk to the main manager of the store Mr. Dennis Murray. The one I had spoken to Mrs. Laura Cestra who I said I would have the cup to be tested and may take legal action said its not her companies problem its TEXSPORT’s problem they just happen to make money selling the lead laced camping cookware. And as long as no one says anything they don’t care and won’t pull anything off the shelves till there’s a problem with the government and not the public’s welfare. Anyway I just don’t have the money to sue DICK’S and TEXSPORT for the shirts on they’re backs for selling this poison to the public out right. I encourage anyone out there just to go into one of they’re stores and buy any cookware from the manufacturer TEXSPORT and test it and then sue them till they’re broke because lord knows I would love to. They are selling poison to all of us and don’t give a dam. Money, money, money whores…Take care

    4. Hi Mange,

      How do you test cookware for leaching lead and other metals?


    5. Savs,

      You can sleep better now… the Texsport mug you bought is not a health hazard. The problem was that a supplier thought they had to put warnings on all items to be in compliance with California’s Prop 65 rules and regulations. They just misunderstood the California requirements…

    6. What about companies who sell to USA, and have lead or other Toxic Chemicals in their merchandise. My opinion is that we should sue them.
      I purchased a well-known piece of cookware and it has lead in it.
      I talked with the salesman on the phone and he stated that all of their products were now made in another country and they had no control over the lead in the Slow-Cookers.
      Joyce luna

    7. Are “leadcheck swabs” used for testing cookware, such as crock pots and glazed terra cotta pots?

    8. I am undergoing chelation for lead, aluminum, cadmium and mercury. I eat organically and have used glass pots and pans primarily for the last 7 years. However, the visionware was red, which appears to be cadmium. 7 years ago I chelated it out. However, most likely due to eating out even in health food stores, you can’t control what they cook and serve in. I also discovered that there are dishes that say cadmium lead free on them from China on line. I will check on glass from now on too. Inherited dishes from my grandmother’s English spode had lead. I did the lead swab test. We need to start requesting from govt. and cookware association to not only put dishwasher safe, microwave safe on the bottom of dishes and cookware but “food safe.”

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