Originally written: January 3, 2017
Updated: March 6, 2020
Butterfly Brand Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker – Made in India
The inside nut (valve cover / end) on the Butterfly brand pressure cooker pictured above (made in India, and brought with the family to the United States when they moved here from India) tested positive for 120,500 ppm Lead when tested with a high-precision XRF instrument. That is more than 12% Lead — on a food-surface component of a cookware item used daily to make rice to feed children!
This pressure cooker was the likely source of poisoning for a young child
This particular pressure cooker was identified as the likely source of poisoning of a young boy who had a chronic / persistent low-level Lead exposure — correlated to a BLL hovering around 4.0 micrograms per deciliter for an extended period of time. The source of his exposure had remained a mystery for more than a year — until an exhaustive re-examination of every aspect of his environment revealed the (previously overlooked, mundane and seemingly-innocuous) detail that all of his daily meals included rice prepared in this pressure cooker — and led to the thorough testing of it with a precision XRF instrument].
How would such a small component of the lid contaminate the food?
While the rice is being cooked in this pressure cooker (any pressure cooker), water condenses up on the interior surface of the lid [in this case – where the heavily-Leaded valve nut is located], and then drips back down onto the rice. This perpetual cycle happens for the entire time the rice is cooking (roughly an hour).
Were other exposure sources ruled out for this child?
The child in this case lived in a newer-construction home — and previous inspectors (from the county and city) who had repeatedly visited with the family had “not been able to find any potential sources of exposure for this child”.
[A similarly-constructed baby food grinder (mainly stainless steel interior) that this family had (also made in India) also had a Leaded brass washer in an area of the grinder that came in regular contact with the food being ground in the appliance. This Leaded-brass washer was on the inside of the bowl of the baby food grinder above the basin and below the blade. This was an possible additional source of exposure for the children in this home.]
We found two other suspect items in this boy’s home (outside of Saint Louis, Missouri):
- One round metal support pole in the basement of the home (part of the structure of the home) that was painted with Lead paint [despite the fact that it was in a newer construction home]…
- …and ONE couch cushion on a fairly new [high-quality – not inexpensive!] three-seat-cushion brown leather couch was positive for a significant amount of Lead. [Only one of the three seat cushions tested positive for Lead – even though all three matched – and were in all other ways identical. No other component of the couch had any Lead.]
Recommendation: avoid stainless steel appliances from India
As a result of this discovery with this particular family [which, if I recall correctly, was in either 2013 or 2014], I always try to check any appliances made in India whenever I encounter them during home consultations with families; in virtually every case, multi-component appliances from India have had at least one Leaded component. Note: single-component stainless steel items from India – like plates or bowls – should be free of Lead contamination (as Lead is unlikely to be present in the stainless steel itself). Since this discovery I have discouraged the functional food use of any stainless steel appliances from India – especially in the absence of XRF-testing data for any particular make or model.
Can I test my pressure cooker myself – at home?
It is unlikely that these items would test positive with a reactive agent swab (such as 3M LeadCheck®) — so practically speaking, they really cannot be tested by a consumer. [Some may test positive with a swab – depending on the levels, specific metal alloys, and finishes — but since the swabs have specifically been designed to test paint (not solid metal) a “negative” result – with a reactive-agent swab – cannot be construed as a reliable indicator of an actual negative for the presence of Lead in an item like this, and additionally, a “positive” result on a swab-test would also not give you any reliable sense of the level of concern – as the low threshold of detection for reactive-agent swab tests used at home is generally around 600 ppm Lead.]
Do other brands of pressure cookers have this problem as well?
Since first encountering this issue, I have tested many pressure cookers from various countries of origin — Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and others — and consistently found examples of this problematic construction across the board, with very few exceptions. The interior valves on many pressure cookers are often made of Leaded brass, Lead-contaminated aluminum, or other Lead-containing metal alloys – or are sometimes painted with a Leaded enamel.
Some examples of other brands of pressure cookers I have tested
- The other side of this pressure cooker lid.
- 2009 Miracle brand electric rice cooker.
- A 2018 Instant pot.
- A 2018 Vitaclay slow cooker.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
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