Below is the response that Dr. Mercola has been sending to my followers who email him through his website, asking about the concern for lead in his “lead free” pans (starting with a bit of an introduction/ explanation / recap of the situation by me.)
By Tamara Rubin (& Len Rubin)
Last June (2017) I tested frying pans from Dr. Mercola’s branded ceramic set (pictured here), using XRF technology.
In this testing I found lead levels in the white “painted on” ceramic label on the bottom that exceeded 14,000 parts per million (ppm).
Calling an amount of lead a “trace” of lead found in consumer goods is usually reserved for lead under 100 ppm as detected with an XRF.
Levels as consistently high as 14,000 ppm lead cannot – by any credible argument – be explained away as being the result of some sort of “naturally occurring” or “trace” contamination, but rather is definitely a constituent component in a coating (in this case, the label.)
The interior of the initial pan I tested was also positive — in the case of the interior, for what would correctly be characterized as “trace” levels (below 100 ppm) of lead; specifically 83 ppm lead.
Subsequent to the initial testing, I did follow-up testing on additional pans from this manufacturer (Ceramcor/Xtrema), specifically pans that were not rebranded as a Dr. Mercola product. These additional samples came in at similar levels – with the bottom (permanently affixed/painted/enamel) label again testing in the range of thousands of ppm lead, and the interior surface of the pan registering trace amounts in the same range as the initial pan I tested.
The problem is that language on both the Ceramcor website and the Mercola websites proudly advertise the products to be “free of ALL heavy metals”. You can see screenshots from the Mercola site on this link. The Mercola site makes two separate claims: one stating that there is no leachable lead (i.e.that they have passed regulatory leach-tests — the only testing that is currently mandated) and a separate claim, asserting that these pans contain “no lead” whatsoever. [They state separately that the product “contains no lead” and that it “will not leach into your food.”] In doing so, one could reasonably infer that they appear to understand the distinction between lead content and leachable lead. They also clearly state that their products do not contain either “heavy or trace metals.” I have highlighted this text on this post HERE.
We are not disputing that these products do not leach lead. The manufacturer has test results that show that this product does not leach lead. And that is not my concern.
What we have repeatedly tried to explain, both to Dr, Mercola and to Richard Bergstrom [the owner of Ceramcor/Xtrema, the company that makes the product Dr. Mercola has branded] is that their claims of “no lead” and no “trace” lead are false (as shown by the testing I have done), and they need to reevaluate their public statements about their products, ideally removing this language from their sites entirely. In absence of making these changes, they are engaging in false advertising.
People are buying these products because they are advertised as lead free, yet they most decidedly are not lead free; they have both trace lead on the interior (food surface) of the pan and extremely high lead on the exterior bottom of the pans. Many of the people who have bought their products are my followers (parents of lead poisoned children – to whom this is a very important selling point!)
With months of communications exchanged (see some of that on the comment thread here) with Mr. Bergstrom, he still does not appear to understand the distinctions above (and has apparently shared his misunderstood perception with Dr. Mercola).
Mr. Bergstrom has also, since Christmas Eve 2017 (a few weeks ago), taken to spamming my website [61 comments since Christmas Eve submitted to my website alone, all of which have been saved “for posterity”] and harassing me personally on my Facebook pages [many additional comments there – see example below], because he is unwilling (or unable?) to understand the distinctions I have brought to his attention.
I am not here to incite, attack, engage in arguments, etc. — only to educate and explain some of the science to consumers. I look for and report the presence of lead in things. I do not “go after” products or manufacturers, and I do not even have a focus on cookware specifically. I do believe that consumer products — especially cookware —can and should be made without lead. We have learned (repeatedly) that claims of manufacturers cannot be trusted, and so we must be our own watch dogs.
Below (in blue) is Dr. Mercola’s e-mail response to my followers who have contacted him asking about the lead that I found in his pans (here is a link to a screenshot of the response directly from his site.)
“Our ceramic ware is protected from naturally occurring lead in clays by an impervious glaze. We have tested our ceramic ware for leaching of lead and found none. Our products are safe and will not cause harm from lead. The test that was done by the referenced link uses a method that determines lead inside the ceramic clay. Of course there is lead inside every ceramic clay – it occurs naturally. However, this lead does not leach into food cooked in our ceramic ware and the test referenced is misleading. We hope this information finds you well. If there is anything else we can assist with please feel free to contact us.”
What we need Dr. Mercola to understand is that even as indicated in the response above (in his own words) his website’s claims of “lead-free” are not true. “Non-leaching” and “lead-free” are separate distinctions.
Deconstructing his response above, I have the following reactions to share.
- Dr. Mercola cannot both say “of course there is lead inside every ceramic clay” (which is not true by the way, I have tested plenty of ceramics that were 100% lead-free) and also claim that his product is lead-free and does not even contain any “trace” metals (as he claims on his site).
- Also his claim that “the test referenced is misleading” is absurd. The test referenced is my own testing. It is definitive, state-of-the-art XRF testing, the same testing done by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to determine the presence of lead in consumer goods — using the very same make and model of instrument. It is not “misleading”; they are simply misunderstanding the distinction between “lead-free” and “non-leaching.”
- He also says the test “uses a method that determines lead inside the ceramic clay” and this is also incorrect as well. XRF testing generally reads what is closest to the surface, such as the very high lead levels in the label (permanently fused to the bottom of the pan).
Even though the company who makes the products refuses to acknowledge (understand?) these distinctions, we hope Dr. Mercola and his wife Erin (who are friends of many environmentalist activist friends of mine) will take the time to try to understand what is being said here and will either remove their “lead-free” claims from their website (leaving just the claims about “not leaching“) or will find a different manufacturer to sell them a similar product that is, in fact, lead-free.
Note: Dr. Mercola still has never responded to me directly about this matter — from my first letter/post in June of 2017, yet he has cited my work finding lead in baby bottles as a positive thing (while, months later, denying my work finding lead in the products he sells.)
Please also note, I have brought similar issues to the attention of other manufacturers (including Ikea, Hydroflask and Emile Henry) — and in those cases they either changed their product (or already had changes to their products in the works) or changed their language so it would be correct and not remain misleading. This is the first time I have had a thoroughly argumentative exchange with a vendor that simply refuses to acknowledge the presence of lead in their products.
The #SimpleSolution to this problem, Dr. Mercola is as follows:
- Demand that Mr. Bergstrom remove the high lead content label from the pans (I have no confidence that this can be proven to be completely safe [for the entire life of the product] as claimed at such an extremely high level as that.)
- Remove language from your site that states or implies there is “no lead in the product” (as even you concede there is lead in your product in the note from you above)
- Remove language from your site that states there is not even a “trace” of metals in the product (as with this product it appears there will continue to be trace lead, even with the removal of the highly leaded label)
- If you choose to continue selling the product given points 1 through 3 above, continue using the language that your product does not leach lead (just avoid implying the product is “lead-free“).
P.S. (For “fun”) here is a Facebook comment that Mr. Bergstrom’s wife posted on my personal Facebook page this evening. I had been waiting to write the above response but decided – in light of Mr. Bergstrom (and his wife’s) continued harassment of me that it was time to write the above post. This comment (below) was in response to a post where I was upset (and used colorful language to convey my upset) that the LiveStrong Foundation was actually recommending young tennis players apply lead tape to the handles of their rackets!