For those new to this website:
Tamara Rubin is a multiple-Federal-award-winning independent advocate for childhood Lead poisoning prevention and consumer goods safety, and a documentary filmmaker. She is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children (two of her sons were acutely Lead-poisoned in 2005). Since 2009, Tamara has been using XRF technology (a scientific method used by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for toxicants (specifically heavy metals — including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Antimony, and Arsenic). All test results reported on this website are science-based, accurate, and replicable. Items are tested multiple times to confirm the test results for each component tested. Tamara’s work was featured in Consumer Reports Magazine in February of 2023 (March 2023 print edition).
Originally Published: January 8, 2017
Updated: December 9, 2022
When tested with an XRF instrument, nearly all of the KitchenAid brand mixer attachments — of the hundreds that I have tested to date (with testing completed from 2009 through 2022) have been positive for Lead — typically, at levels that would be considered unsafe and illegal if this were a newly-manufactured item “intended for use by children.“
This is true of the KitchenAid brand mixer attachments with the white or gray coating, and also the shiny or dull-gray (“burnished”) bare metal ones. This also includes the top-knobs on the whisk attachment (which is particularly odd, considering the main body of said whisk is made of intrinsically-Lead-free stainless steel!).
In general, over the years since I originally posted this information, KitchenAid has been completely dismissive of this concern in all of their communications with Lead Safe Mama readers (who often contact them after reading the articles I have written on this subject, asking about Lead-free alternatives/ Lead-free replacements).
Representatives of the brand have even gone so far as to make statements (in writing) to inquiries implying that my (scientific) testing and analysis is (somehow) “false.“ I find this particularly amusing, given I have shared this information continuously since 2014 on social media channels as well as my website — and not once has KitchenAid contacted me directly asking me to take down any of these statements (a request they would have no success in seeing realized, as everything I write is science-based and simply factual).
Extraordinarily, they have even told some customers that my research “has been taken down, as it has been disproven“… um, nope! (I will dig up some of those amazing screenshots from over the past couple of years, and will put together a separate article documenting that bizarre facet of the company’s behavior — as I have been meaning to, but just have not had a moment for yet!)
Q. “Tamara — isn’t this illegal?
In fact, it is NOT illegal for kitchenware (appliances, juicers, garlic presses, ice cream scoops, dishes, etc.) to test positive for unsafe levels of Lead (as detectable with an XRF instrument). It is entirely legal — as long as these items are not explicitly sold and marketed as being “intended for use by children.” If they were marketed for use by children, then one could argue that a Lead level of 100 ppm or higher in the “substrate“ (or a Lead level of 90 ppm or higher in the paint or coating) of the items would make these illegal for sale. However, because kitchenware is considered (by intention and design) to be an item intended for use solely by adults (even though we all know our kids use these things!), they are exempt from existing regulations that would apply if they were expressly made “for use by children.”
“Is this (the fact that these KitchenAid mixer attachments persistently test positive for unsafe levels of Lead) a real concern?”
- The Lead contamination in most of these products appears to be in the metal substrate, not in the white or grey coating (although I have not done any additional destructive testing yet, to determine whether or not there may be any Lead in the coating of some of these items, as well — I am especially concerned about that potential for the older examples [30+ years old]).
- The substrate (base metal) of these KitchenAid mixer attachments appears to be cast-aluminum.
- Cast-aluminum is almost always contaminated with Lead, so it is not unexpected to find Lead in these products!
- Click here to see more examples of Lead-contaminated cast-aluminum kitchen products — ranging from hand citrus juicers to garlic presses to ice cream scoops.
As a result of the above assumption (Lead primarily in the substrate vs. the coatings), I am not too concerned about the potential for Lead exposure when using the white enameled paddles and blades (if used occasionally, and if there are no chips or cracks or deterioration of the white coating). However, given the metal substrate appears to be the contaminated component, I am DEFINITELY concerned about the shiny or dull gray “burnished” bare-metal paddles and blades, as I have heard from countless readers that — after even just one use — those paddles tend to leave gray streaks (i.e. particulates from the surface of the metal) in the food as it is mixed. (Note: when these “burnished” attachments are purchased new, they have a shiny finish, but after use they start turning a dull gray.) So it seems quite reasonable to assume that the bare metal attachments are likely leaving behind at least some Lead contamination of the food along with the visible streaks of gray that they leave behind. Given we know for certain that it literally just takes a microscopic amount of Lead to poison a child (literally, an invisible amount) for a visible impact of the paddle on the food to be present (in the form of gray streaks left on the batter or dough in the bowl) is a significant indicator of the potential for harm.
To read more about the concern for the potential impacts of aggregate low levels of Lead exposure from items in our home — and especially items in our kitchen and food prep environment — please read the article linked here.
December 2018 Update:
In 2018 I learned some excellent news … KitchenAid has FINALLY come out with a version of their blades and paddles in full stainless steel construction!!! I have since tested several sets of these and they are indeed “all stainless” including in the top “nut” of the whisk. I can’t help but think that it has been the influence of you, Lead Safe Mama readers that put consumer demand on KitchenAid to make these Lead-free versions of their paddles and mixing attachments, but still it brings into greater question that they still make Leaded options and the Lead-free (stainless) options are considered an “optional upgrade!!!” These all-stainless-steel options are an exclusive to Williams Sonoma (or direct from KitchenAid). I don’t have any confidence that you can buy a true, all–stainless option on Amazon or from other vendors; I have concerns that the single blades or paddles or hooks being sold as “stainless steel” by off-brands may likely, in reality, incorporate some cost saving cast-aluminum components like the top “nut” on the whisk).
From the William Sonoma website:
To reiterate: By selling the stainless set as an intentional “upgrade” (per the language from the Williams Sonoma website screenshot above) it really make one wonder what their official (internal) stance is on the non-upgraded original (aka Leaded!) attachments!
To see more KitchenAid attachments and other KitchenAid branded products I have tested (many of which test positive for Lead with an XRF instrument), click HERE — this is a link to the KitchenAid category of posts and articles here on the website (not just related to their stand mixers and accessories).
Related: #AskTamara: What do you use to test for Lead?
Continue reading below the image.XRF test results for the items pictured in the image above:
KitchenAid attachments, c. 2014: As high as 2,434 ppm Lead
Left to right (in the image above and below):
1) KitchenAid Paddle: 1,655 ppm LEAD on white,
2) KitchenAid Balloon Whisk: 110 ppm LEAD in top knob,
3) KitchenAid Dough Hook: 2,434 ppm LEAD,
4) KitchenAid Paddle with Silicone Wiper Blade: 333 ppm LEAD,
5) last one is NOT KitchenAid brand (plastic attachment by Beater Blade), and … NO Lead! (Amazon link here to this product*).
The 4th one from the left (I was told) is newish purchased (c. 2014). I don’t know the exact ages of the other examples pictured.
The readings are XRF readings done by me — Tamara Rubin, owner of Lead Safe Mama, LLC — (and yes, I am trained and certified in using an XRF instrument). XRF readings on consumer goods (using an appropriate XRF instrument and software, as I do) are generally considered “surface” readings. The three white items in the photo above are all coated metal. Given the surface coating is fairly thin (something one can observe with examples of these mixer attachments where the coating has chipped) and actually appears to be a plastic of some type, that supports the assertion that the coating is not likely the problem — but instead, the issue is with the substrate (the base metal) — and the XRF instrument is reading through the thin plastic coating to the higher levels of Lead in the substrate of the product.
To reiterate: Based on my decade (+) of testing these particular KitchenAid items, I am fairly certain that the Lead is in the cast-aluminum substrate of the blades, not in the white coating. In addition to this being a concerning factor — given they also sell the blades without the white coating — it is also a concerning factor because the white coating chips and wears as it ages, exposing the Leaded cast-aluminum substrate underneath, thus making it possible for food contamination to occur.
As you can (and many manufacturers do) make kitchen items and cookware with no Lead, we (as consumers) should expect high standards from a “trusted” household name like KitchenAid, so I personally am disappointed to find any Lead in any of their products — regardless of whether or not the Lead has been proven to be leaching into the food being prepared with these items.
Thank you for reading and for sharing Lead Safe Mama posts and articles (when you share what we write, it helps to generate advertising income that — in turn — helps pay for the independent consumer goods testing work we conduct and report here on the website!).
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Owner — Lead Safe Mama, LLC