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).
For context, today (in 2019) the amount of actual Lead content (as detectable with an XRF instrument) considered unsafe in items made for use by children is 90 ppm Lead (or higher) in the surface paint, finish, or coating, and 100 ppm Lead (or higher) in the substrate.
As with most of the items that I share about here on LeadSafeMama.com, I am NOT saying that this item will poison you, but I AM asking… Why are we continuing to tolerate the use of any Lead at all in our kitchen items? Especially new and recently-manufactured kitchen items containing Lead? Lead is one of the most potent neurotoxins known to man — it causes permanent brain damage in young children and simply does not belong anywhere in our kitchens. Period.
In my testing experience, I have found significant Lead content, in varying amounts, in nearly every glazed ceramic slow cooker liner (every brand, every color) I have tested. Accordingly, the answer to the question “Tamara, which slow cooker do you recommend?” is “none of the brands I’ve tested — ever.” Even though I may have found one or more individual specimens of ceramic-lined slow cookers that tested negative for Lead, in this type of appliance, I have found far too much batch variation in production. There’s too much statistical potential for higher-Lead content in any random specimen (given the nature of mass-produced glazed ceramics) for me to be confident that any one brand or style of ceramic-lined slow cooker could be said to be anything approaching “consistently Lead-free.”
The potential for the presence of Lead in both the clay substrate and the food-surface glaze, combined with the nature of how slow cookers are normally used (daily, regular heavy use, with intentionally prolonged cook time for sauces, soups, stews and other foods that may be highly acidic – tomato-based, or otherwise) creates a recipe for potential Lead contamination of the food cooked in these items – a potential that is far outside of my comfort level in terms of my ability to make a recommendation supporting this type of product at this point.
Note: While these items may be leach-tested at the time of manufacture and therefore deemed to be safe for food use purposes, studies have repeatedly demonstrated that if toxicants are present in the glaze, as glazed ceramic items wear with heavy use, the leaching of these toxicants can definitely increase over time. You can read more about the concern here.
Check out this piece for safer choices for your home!
Why I don’t personally happen to use this type of appliance: In my opinion (based on the testing I have done), the Instant Pot® is the safest choice for an appliance with slow-cooking/ set-and-forget capabilities as it’s interior cooking vessel is all stainless steel. I got one for my husband as a present —he does most of the cooking for our family these days; he is vegan and reports he is impressed with it’s versatility. He uses it’s fast, automated pressure-cooking mode almost daily for cooking the kids’ yummy morning porridge, consisting of various whole grains, seeds, nuts, and fruit, as well as his dietary staples of brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains — a gazillion different beans, steamed vegetables, etc.You can see the results of our testing on the Instant Pot® here.
Thank you for reading and for sharing this work.
Please let me know if you have any questions.