Lead Poisoning and Crock Pots

Crock pots containing lead was the subject of an investigation that started in Salt Lake City with KUTV’s Bill Gephardt. After his investigation about lead in ceramic glazed plates, bowls and mugs and finding high a content of lead in them, his focus turned to ceramic glazed crock pots after a viewer did a little research on her own.

A mom from Weber County, was a frequent user of her crock pot. Her concern about lead poisoning prompted her to take her Rival slow cooker to the county fair, where a booth was doing free lead testing on dishes. What she discovered was her crock pot contain lead. She notified Gephardt about her findings and he took the investigation from there.

Gephardt took several slow cookers to Data Chem lab in Salt Lake City to be tested. He found that 20 percent of the cookers were leaching out measurable amounts of lead into food. When ceramic ware is heated to just 80-degrees, it releases nearly 10-times the amount of lead as a plate at room temperature. (Something to keep in mind when you heat food in the micro-wave on ceramic dishes.) Crock pots can heat up to more than 250-degrees.

Wanting additional findings, Gephardt took a crock pot to chemist Robert Aullman, who preformed the standard test established by the Food and Drug Administration for testing leaching lead. He found that the Rival slow cooker leached lead at .085 parts per million. Anything below 2.0 is considered acceptable by the FDA. (It’s important to note that lead does not leave the body easily. A build up of lead over a period of time is dangerous.)

Mr. Gephardt took his findings to Utah House Rep. Jim Matheson. Congress was looking into a proposed amendment that would force manufactures to put labels on ceramic ware to identify lead content. However, Gephardt’s investigation was reported in 2004 and, so far, no law or amendment has been put into place.

My research in to whether Rival had removed the lead from their crock pots produced conflicting information. I called Rival’s Consumer Services department (1-800-777-5452) and they confirmed that their slow cookers still contain lead. They stated that the level is below the FDA standard for lead in ceramic products.

Upon further investigation, I called Hamilton Beach (1-800-851-8900) and they assured me that their crock pots do not contain any lead or cadmium. (Cadmium is another highly toxic metal associated with zinc ores. Oil paint used by artist’s contain a lot of Cadmium and Zinc…. Cadmium Red…Cadmium Yellow… Zinc White. It’s also found in industries where ore is being processed or smelted. Ceramic can be colored with Cadmium colors.)

It’s been suggested that you can use plastic liners in your crock pot so lead doesn’t leach into your food. I personally don’t recommend doing that because plastics heated to high temperatures leach other kinds of toxins. However, Reynolds claim their liners are made from a high resin nylon which is suitable for high temperature cooking. You’ll have to be the judge on this one.

I don’t use my crock pot often, but when I do, I want to know that the food is completely safe for my family. “So long… Good-bye… Rival crock pot.”

I find it disconcerting that the FDA allows any amount of lead in products if it’s possible to manufacture them with out it. A little of this… and and little of that… here and there can amount to a lot of toxins being ingested by Americans.

I’m not convinced that the FDA always has our best interests in mind. Just look at how many drugs and products are taken off the market that have been found to be harmful… even deadly… after the FDA has put its stamp of approval on them.

Becoming aware, and taking responsibility for our own well-being is the best solution for combating toxic and lead poisoning.

Till Later
Insightful Nana

P.S. The Hamilton Beach 6 Qt. slow cooker runs about $49.99 compared to Rival’s 6 Qt. at $34.99. It looks like Hamilton Beach is a bit more expensive… but what’s $15.00 when you can have a lead free product and peace of mind.

P.S.S. If you find another crock pot that doesn’t contain lead… let me know.

23 responses to “Lead Poisoning and Crock Pots”

  1. I am the reporter who investigated the lead in crockpots. Yes, it is astonishing that no law has been initiated to prohibit lead in crock pots.
    But roughly a year before I tested crock pots, I tested lead in everyday ceramic dishware.

    The complaint came from a woman who exclusively breast fed her infant. The infant had intestional problems. The doctor thought it was routine digestive development problems, until one day, as the problem went on, he did a blood test for many things, including lead. BANG: the infant was lead poisoned from only breast feeding. When the Weber County (Utah) health department investigated, they found -no lead- in the brand new home—-except in the breand new ceramic plates purchased at Wal Mart. She had been eating off of them, and passing the lead from the plate (the leachings of which meet government standards) through her breast milk to her infant.

    After public reaction to the stories (which are still posted at KUTV.com) we tested hundreds of people’s plates by popular demand. Of the thousands we tested (new/old/antique/handmade), we found 20 per cented tested positive for lead.

    My proposal is that if some manufacturers insist on putting lead on dinner plates, they should label them: “contains lead,” or “contains no lead.” Then we could decide.

    So far, the attitude in the government seems to be let the industry regulate itself.

    Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) has proposed a new law in a committee meeting I covered in Washington. So far, the proposal seems to be being ignored.


  2. WOW, gephardt. Pretty cool.
    Do the Fiesta ware plates have any lead. I know the old ones do (did). But what about the ones that have been made in the last few years?
    BTW, I’m throwing out every plate I have that is from Walmart!

  3. Chrissy… Good for you… getting your Hamilton Beach Crock Pot so inexpensively. When I talked to Hamilton Beach on the phone, they didn’t specify any particular model being “lead free.” I’m assuming they are all lead free. I love the liners you can put into your Crock Pot. It sure makes clean up easy.

  4. On Hamilton Beach’s website under FAQs they state their crock pots contain lead but within the FDA limits. Let’s hope the next adminstration watches out for the consumer instead of big money.

  5. Hey Bill,

    THANK you for this awesome investigative reporting!! I find it incomprehensible that manufactures do not have to disclose LEAD in the product! This is just WRONG.

    Hamilton Beach it will be for me! Even Cuisinart and Martha Stewart do not disclose!!

    Thanks again, when oh when will Jo Consumer become a voice for wanting clean, safe cookware? And when oh when will all of these manufacturers of products STOP CONTRACTING TO CHINA or whereever they begin the poisioning process and get back to serving the people of this country who want, need, and DEMAND clean food and products to serve it to their family?

    This is just ridiculous! And to the woman using the plastic liners, beware of the leaching plastics into your own food!!

    Thanks again Bill!! Would that the world have more investigative reporters like you. Maybe Wolf Blitzer and CNN can get off the bashing of our President and start to look at the real issues in this country and see what is going on!

  6. I still have yet to find a slow cooker (ie crock pot) that I actually trust to be lead free, as noted Hamilton Beach now says that any lead is within limits… have a little poison with your dinner, no thanks. What I’ve done is purchase a cast iron dutch oven (Lodge preseasoned, 7qt from amazon for anyone curious) and I’ve been using it, everything tastes great! Works wonderfully stove top for chili, in the oven for briskets etc. Granted I’d still love to find a lead free slow cooker as I don’t like heating up my whole house in the summer or leaving the stove on if I leave the house but until then consider a dutch oven for your slow cooker needs. As a side note Fiestaware dishes are USA made and lead free, I switched all of ours to them and really like them… wish they’d make a crock insert!

  7. I have been concerned about this for years & even wonder if cast iron has lead in it. A solution is the only solution if someone really wants an electric slow cooker. Waiting for the companies to do the right thing is like hoping for a 50mpg suv to come along. I was thinking I could find a potter @ ask if they could make one for me to replace the one w/lead. Also a solar oven if you live in a sunshine place would work for all day cooking. Is there such a thing as a cast iron insert or even just thick glass would be awsome–but thats just a hopeful dream. I at least now know others have these concerns & don’t feel so alone. I did see a product from China called VitaClay Slow Cooker and think it was $99. They claim no lead as well as other toxins. I may get one,but made in USA would be nicer. As for everday dishes I pray that if it says microwave safe it can’t have lead as metal can kind of burn or flash or something. Think I will just find some glass plates. Is glass lead free?? Anyone? Thanks & Peace

  8. What about an aluminum slow cooker? Does anyone know if those are safe? I know Hamilton Beach makes one and so does West Bend. Any info would be much appreciated.

  9. I have never investigated an aluminum slow cooker. Aluminum has it’s disadvantages because it pits and corrodes. Stainless steel is still the best for cooking but I don’t know if anyone makes a stainless cooker either. I need to investigate the options.

  10. I would not recommend using aluminum for cookware as the metal can leach into your food and aluminum can cause adverse health effects.

    Stainless steel can be problematic because of the nickel that is used in it. Nickel is a known carcinogen. If you do use stainless steel be sure to never use it to cook tomatoes as they will increase the amount of leaching of nickel from stainless steel.

    Glass pyrex ductch ovens are great for cooking with lots of liquid. I haven’t heard any health related concerns about them.

    You can purchase cookware at http://www.mercola.com that is safe.

  11. Just talked to Cuisinart’s customer service about my new slow cooker and he said they no longer use lead on any of their slow cookers. That’s good news, now I just need to check on my old cooker. It’s sad that we as consumers have to do so much research just to find out what is safe.

  12. Saladmaster makes a stainless crock pot (expensive). It’s a pot that sits on an electric warming plate. Because the pan is very heavy duty and distributes heat very evenly. It works well.

    Does anyone know of an enameled-lined electric roaster that would not have hot spots and could work as a slow cooker?

  13. I have a Rival Crock Pot that has tons of tiny hairline fractures in the enamel. I didn’t think much of it until bean juice started oozing out from the other side of the stoneware. Stumbling upon this website, I emailed both Hamilton Beach and Rival about the presence of heavy metals in their stoneware. Hamilton Beach replied promptly, and I still haven’t heard from Rival. Here is what HB had to say:

    “Lead and cadmium are naturally occurring elements in the earth. As crocks are earthenware vessels, lead and cadmium may be naturally present. HBB crocks are porcelain enamel coated to create a barrier between food and earthenware. The porcelain enamel coated crocks are evaluated using ASTM C378 extraction test procedures as measured by flame atomic absorption spectroscopy. This test method has detection limits of 0.1 μg/ml for lead and 0.01 μg/ml for cadmium. In HBB crocks, the amount of lead or cadmium present in the extractant is below the test’s limits of detection. Additionally, the factories that manufacture HBB crocks are certified ceramic production facilities whose ceramic ware is deemed to satisfy FDA heavy metal requirements in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and China.”

  14. I think people need to do these things (since the FDA doesn’t):

    1) Find a place you can have water tested for lead content and other heavy metal content.
    2) Get the proper vessils (6 ea) from that test house to send samples in.
    3) Go through a full, high temp cooking cycle with your crockpot, with only the water in the pot. (or some other cooking cycle that you use a lot).
    4) Send three samples of the uncooked distilled water and three samples of the cooked distilled water to the test house for comparison.
    5) Post the results on this website and or Amazon and EBay, good or bad.

    To say that the Rival and Hamilton Beach crock pots are under the FDA limit for lead is not terribly meaningful. What usage did the FDA base it’s limit on? I am using my Hamilton Beach crockpot to cook staples. Daily Oatmeal and a lentil and rice dish that I hope to eat about three times a week. If I test water cooked in the same way, I can estimate my weekly lead intake with my planned meals. That estimate of weekly / monthly lead intake, in milligrams or micrograms or whatevergrams, will be much more meaningfull than a straight PPM number. (and again, the cooking settings matter and should be recorded.)

    The above suggested tests are not perfect because the food could effect the results up or down. If others have some suggestions on how to improve that test plan let me know. Ie., oatmeal might soak up lead in the water, raising the amount that leaches from the ceramic. Thus the oatmeal might extract more lead than my water test alone. But I don’t think it would be as easy to get accurate tests of lead content of foods, compared to water.

    There also might be some pH changes due to the food. That is easy enough to test. If so, that could be simulated in the water only tests. pH levels would effect metal leaching a great deal. Hopefully you will find the food doesn’t change the pH very much, so you don’t have to worry about this. But if not, you probably need to add to the reference water samles whatever you add to the water to be cooked. Whatever you do, record it and include it in your report.

    What else?

  15. After almost dying of lead poisoning, that was diagnoised as dibetes and rumatoid arthitis and being was bed-riddem for a year and half,and lossing my home because oft he resulting ill health. The only thing I can say is: To hell with the pots ladies. Go to a Naurorpath and get a Challenge Test find out what is already inside of you instead of the pots. A challenge Tests only $100 and and the appointment about$275. You will be shocked. A challenge test wil give a complete read out two pages of the metals you have already got and get your kids checked . I went through expensive dental removal of old fillings and it was’nt even the major problem. I’m glad thier out, but the problem was lead. I didn’t even own a crook pot. It’s everywhere. The AMA blood tests gates are set to high and will only show results if it has been ingested within 24 hrs. If you think getting the old fillings out is the end of the problem.or buying a better pot is it. Your dead wrong literally. Do oral chealaton its safer– good luck

  16. Thanks Pauline…. I’m certainly aware of the lead problem we have. It’s hard to determine just where to start in eliminating lead from our lives. A good place to start is a water filter. So many older homes are affected by lead in the plumbing. We all need to be on keen watch for all possibilities.