Introduction (for those new to this website):
Tamara Rubin is a federal-award-winning independent advocate for consumer goods safety and a documentary filmmaker. She is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children, her sons were acutely Lead-poisoned in 2005. Since 2009 Tamara has been using XRF testing (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.
Below is a letter I wrote to Dr. Mercola when I first found Lead in these pans that are sold and marketed as “Lead-free” and “Metals Free.” This post was originally published on June 9, 2017. Dr. Mercola never responded to me directly, but here are several related posts including his response to customers (link). Of particular interest is the comments thread on this post which, as of March 22, 2019, has over 140 comments — including many by the owner of the manufacturing company for this product.
White permanently affixed enamel label on the bottom of Dr. Mercola brand coated ceramic (cast iron look) pan: 14,900 ppm Lead. Interior of pan: 83 +/- 18 ppm Lead.
As with all my posts, the above results are from XRF testing. Please click here or here to learn more about XRF instruments and testing. Please click here or here to learn more about Lead in ceramics.
Please note: XRF testing is distinct and different from leach testing that may or may not be done on cookware. XRF testing results show total lead content in an item (usually on the surface or in the top surface layers) and that may or may not have implications for leach testing.
Additional note: I understand from the marketing materials for this cookware that it is — in fact — ceramic, however it has the weight and feel of cast iron.
Dear Dr. Mercola,
I e-mailed you last week before I posted this — but I did not receive a response, and after waiting a bit, I felt I needed to share my finding with my followers.
Unfortunately, when people create products and have them made overseas, they don’t often know how to spot (or even everywhere to look for) specific issues — like hazards (or potential hazards) in unlikely places (that generally “pass inspection,” and may be technically “legal”, but still don’t fulfill the good intentions of the company making the product)!
I am sure you did not intend to make a product with a baked-on enamel label that is 14,900 ppm lead in the label on the bottom. (Update: I do understand from subsequent conversations with the manufacturer of this product [see comments below] that they have been told it does pass leach testing, although I am not 100% sure if leach testing is being done on the outside/ bottom of the pan [where the high Lead level is] as that would be atypical of leach testing as I understand it. The manufacturer has also told me that their supplier told them that their labels do not contain Lead, however in light of finding lead in the labels in subsequent testing of additional pans from this company I have encouraged them to look further into this concern.)
I am certain that until reading this post, you were not aware that it was Lead paint on the bottom of your branded frying pans (!) and I am also certain that you will do right by your followers to address the issue — because you have integrity in the space of health and wellness and you specifically and personally know and understand how toxic lead can be, especially when introduced to the food preparation environment.
While I am not asserting or implying that this one particular product will definitely poison the user (XRF testing is separate and distinct from leach testing, and as such is a quantitative result of lead present, not a result of what might get into the food or consumer’s environment through normal use), I believe as consumers we need to be vigilant and aware of all sources of potential environmental toxicity that could unknowingly add to our body burden (of Lead, in this case) over our lifetime.
Also, when Lead is used in any manner in any product (as an additive to paint in this logo for example), that use contributes to perpetuating the demand for Lead in general (even if just a little bit, all of the demands across our economy add up!). And, with the ongoing demand for Lead to be used in products, we then (as a planet) are faced with the ongoing contamination of our natural resources (air, soil, water, etc.) by atmospheric Lead created via the mining, refining, and manufacturing processes. There is also then the concern for the ongoing contamination of the workers in the industries where Lead is mined, processed, and designed into components used in manufacturing (of all types).
My specific concern for the lead in this product is heightened by the fact that the label is right where the flame would reach the pan, and while it may appear innocuous and obviously “intact” when new, it could easily deteriorate over time. Specifically, the repeated heating and cooling of the label on the bottom of the pan carries with it the possibility of releasing lead fumes into the cooking environment once the label begins to deteriorate (particularly if accidentally left unattended and overheated — which realistically does occasionally occur in a large user population over time — especially with high use pans like these)!
- no one has studied this particular/exact instance;
- there is therefore no data/evidence to support this particular concern on this particular product;
- and you have not violated any current legislation or regulation.
These concerns come from my extensive understanding of Lead and Lead toxicity — and especially the way Lead on the surface of consumer products behaves over time. For context:
- while confined to a small area/volume, this Lead level is also nonetheless nearly three times (300%) the amount of Lead that is considered toxic in leaded house paint by our federal agencies (HUD currently requires remediation of Lead paint in federally funded housing when the Lead level reaches 5000 ppm)
- the amount of Lead that is considered unsafe in the paint or coating of an item made and manufactured as intended for use by children is anything 90 ppm or higher
- again, the painted label on the bottom of your pan is 14,900 ppm Lead.
I look forward to speaking with you about this issue.
My cell is 415-609-3182.
I will also be happy to publish your response to my post here on my website.
The woman who owns this pan (part of a full set) has some existing health issues associated with heavy metal toxicity and is trying to detox and eliminate all potential sources of toxicity from her home. She would sincerely appreciate a full replacement set of pans without Lead, if you are able to do that for her (and I would be happy to connect you with her to help make this happen).
Thank you for your time.
Mother of Lead-poisoned children
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