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).
Yet another company doing “the wrong thing”…
The above screenshot is a communication that one of my readers had with Finex yesterday (Monday, May 17, 2021). I have heard for a while now (years actually!) that Finex has been denying the presence of Lead in their cookware (cookware that I wrote about years ago — in this article). Today I thought it was finally time to write a piece addressing Finex’s denials in detail and to call them out on their dishonest behavior. Lying to your customers is not ok, especially when the your statements (statements like the one above: “None of our products have ever tested positive for any toxin or heavy metal.”) directly contradict science-based provable facts (for a product that is already likely in use in thousands of homes around the country)!
I first learned of Finex cookware c. 2017
Since I first learned about the Portland-based company several years ago, I have had the opportunity to test at least six separate examples of their products. Each time, the decorative (and functional) brass elements on these products (the knobs and end caps) have tested positive for a high (and arguably “unsafe”) level of Lead using XRF technology. You can read more about the testing methodology I use for articles on this website here, at this link. These examples have typically tested positive for 20,000 to 40,000 ppm Lead in the decorative (and functional) brass elements of the Finex pans.
How much Lead is “too much” Lead?
For context, the amount of Lead considered unsafe in an item intended for use by children is anything 90 ppm Lead or higher in the paint, glaze, or coating of an item or anything 100 ppm Lead or higher in the substrate. Unfortunately (as discussed in most articles on this website), there is no law limiting total (XRF-detectable) Lead content in cookware (or really in any consumer goods not expressly “intended for use by children”).
Cookware is required to not LEACH Lead (within certain limits) from within a vessel at the time of manufacture (you can read more about that here) — but no Federal agency looks for (or regulates) Lead in other components of cookware (even though you might frequently touch those components with your bare hands during the process of preparing and cooking food). So while 40,000 ppm Lead in a knob of a cooking pan is not in any way illegal, in my opinion it is (at best) unethical. On top of that, LYING about the Lead content in your products may fall squarely within the realm of false advertising (which is actually likely illegal).
Why haven’t you written about this sooner, Tamara?
I haven’t written an article specifically about Finex because (contrary to what some may think) I really don’t like picking fights with companies. I like to give companies a chance to address these issues — and a chance to do better, especially if they are small, local companies*. Now — in 2021 — Finex has had more than enough chances to publicly apologize for their previously manufactured Lead-contaminated products (as well as to shift their manufacturing processes so their new products are 100% Lead-free as they [sometimes] claim they are).
“Interesting” #FunFact: I have heard from some of my readers that if one requests an ALTERNATE knob, Finex may make Lead-free ones available. While I don’t know if they are still doing this, I know that one Lead Safe Mama reader did successfully get his knob and end cap replaced with stainless options from Finex as recently as this past January (after bringing his concern for Lead in the product to the attention of the company). The fact that they were making Lead-free knobs available upon request (specifically to customers with concerns for Lead in the product) makes their denial (in writing, yesterday) of the presence of any Lead in their cookware that much more egregious.
What are the specific XRF test results for a Finex pan?
Below are the exact XRF test results for the pan pictured. Each test result set is replicable, science-based, and accurate. Test results reported below are for 30 to 60 second tests, repeated multiple times to confirm the results.
PLEASE CONTINUE READING BELOW THE IMAGES & TEST RESULT SETS
Component #1.) Yellow brass top knob of the lid for the pan pictured
- Lead (Pb): 30,000 +/- 1,000 ppm
- Silver (Ag): 283 +/- 72 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 7,291 +/- 330 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 377,700 +/- 2,800 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 573,000 +/- 3,300 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 4,997 +/ 356 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 4,869 +/- 413 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 583 +/- 281 ppm
PLEASE CONTINUE READING BELOW THE IMAGES & TEST RESULT SETSComponent #2.) Yellow brass end cap of handle of the pan pictured
- Lead (Pb): 27,400 +/- 800 ppm
- Silver (Ag): 95 +/- 40 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 1,689 +/- 144 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 360,200 +/- 2,200 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 607,500 +/- 2,600 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 907 +/ 179 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 1,496 +/- 218 ppm
PLEASE CONTINUE READING BELOW THE IMAGES & TEST RESULT SETS
Component #3.) Main iron of the pan pictured (interior food surface)
- Chromium (Cr): 1,733 +/- 351 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 207 +/- 53 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 2,418 +/- 296 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 987,900 +/- 1,400 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 4,416 +/- 443 ppm
PLEASE CONTINUE READING BELOW THE IMAGES & TEST RESULT SETSComponent #4.) Silver colored spiral handle of the pan pictured
304 Stainless Steel (no Lead)
- Chromium (Cr): 176,400 +/- 1,600 ppm
- Molybdenum (Mo): 3,590 +/- 173 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 4,195 +/- 533 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 83,400 +/- 1,700 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 716,900 +/- 2,800 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 11,200 +/- 1,200 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 1,295 +/- 468 ppm
What’s the takeaway here, Tamara?
I think the primary takeaway is that companies will lie to protect their ASSets.
My eldest son recently said (in response to #TeaBloomGate2021 — linked here), “I’m not at all surprised by this behavior; every time you discover something like this and share it with your readers, the companies (predictably) tend to act in exactly the same manner (denying the presence of Lead; threatening lawsuits, etc. — and then, sometimes, later apologizing) and it reminds me of how every Scooby Doo episode unfolds in exactly the same way — with the good guys in jeopardy in some form or another in the middle, and the bad guys being unmasked in the end!” Frankly, the predictability of this corporate nonsense is boring.
- We need to hold manufacturers accountable. They need to know that we don’t want toxic substances (especially substances like Lead, which cause brain damage in young children) in our cookware. Period. This should be a non-negotiable point, today in 2021!
- When given an inch, manufacturers will take a mile. The situation with Finex is a really good example. Until now, I never published the specific test results for one of these pans on my website, so I expect the company felt they got away with it. They stayed in denial and never corrected the issue (they did not make any public statement acknowledging the error of their ways, or publicly offer replacement Lead-free components to customers who had unknowingly purchased their Leaded products) — because there was no specific (publicly) available evidence exposing their lies. With this communication from my reader yesterday (the first image at the top of this piece, where they outright lied — in WRITING — in response to an inquiry), I couldn’t let this slide any longer. (I wonder if I will get a scathing letter from their lawyers later this month. Hopefully they will read what happened with Teabloom and will take the high road, not that route, as I promise it will backfire just as all the others have!)
But maybe they are not making Leaded products any longer?
I acknowledge that it is possible that the company has changed their formulation for their most-recently manufactured pans. However, I think that is unlikely. While I haven’t been able to confirm the exact year of manufacture for the pan pictured and tested here, the owner told me he received it as a gift in 2020.
Additionally, I do know that Finex pans purchased new (directly from the company) by my readers as recently as 3 to 4 years ago had Leaded components — and the words of their response to my reader (image above) clearly assert their products have never “tested positive for any toxin or heavy metal.” Dissecting their statement:
- Technically, Lead is a “toxicant” (not a “toxin” — which, according to the dictionary, is the term for “a poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism…”). So perhaps that part of the statement can ironically be construed as “true” — their pans don’t have things like snake venom or other “toxins.“
- However, there’s no skirting around the linguistic choices used in asserting they have never “tested positive for any heavy metal!” That is simply a lie — Lead is obviously a heavy metal.
- They also specifically say that their products have not “ever tested positive” — and while they may not have done tests themselves (that confirmed their brass as heavily Leaded), I know 100% for sure that they were aware of my test results (findings showing a high level of Lead in their brass components) from 2017 and 2018, as the owner personally invited me to meet with him at his factory in Portland after learning about those results.
- Note: I understand from other communications my readers have shared with me that (as expected), Finex likely did leach-testing (only of the cast iron food contact part of the vessel) and that they separately did some form of wipe sample testing (of the brass components — testing apparently done after learning of my findings). Finex (apparently) never did their own testing for actual total Lead content of their brass components.
Where things get really funny (funny as in “ironic,” not funny “haha”) is that the company was also evasive about the issue in communication with an attorney! Now that’s bold!
This past holiday season, an attorney — who was familiar with my website — had purchased a new Finex pan as a holiday gift for his family. Then he happened to read up about these pans on this site. Below is part of the communication exchange that this person had with Finex.
The attorney asked Finex:
“Have you specifically tested the brass knobs for Lead? If so, please forward a copy of the testing results on the brass knobs.”
“Yes, we tested them for Lead specifically. This was under our past CEO who is a PhD.
Our own tests are something we consider to be a trade secret.
We’re so confident in the safety of the cookware it is what we use for our own family’s meals everyday.
Further inquires can be directed to our parent company Lodge Cast Iron.
Have a safe evening.
It really takes a special sort of person/company to misrepresent a provable fact to an attorney! Although — in true #Greenwashing fashion — with this specific communication, Aaron from Finex doesn’t outright claim that the knobs are “Lead-free,” he instead skirts the issue with vague and evasive language! (“… confident in the safety …” and “… trade secret …” — seriously??!)
Also this year, yet another reader shared an exchange with Finex with me:
Then later (this year, in fact, over the past couple of months), yet another reader forwarded a similar exchange with Finex to me (this person was among many readers to do so). This exchange featured similar tactics, both evasive language (not directly answering whether components of the pans had unsafe levels of Lead in them) and outright incorrect/ false statements (denying the presence of Lead altogether in the pans) — including statements from Finex representatives that “all brass has some amount of Lead”(!), which is simply untrue. I often test brass that is 100% free of Lead. Here’s just one example (link).
What’s a good alternative “Made in The USA,” truly Lead-free cast iron pan?
If you want a truly Lead-free made-in-America cast iron pan, check out the products from Solidteknics (here’s a link to my articles with test results of products from that company)!
And because I like to form alliances with companies who make good products and who don’t LIE to their customers, for each new thousand followers on the Lead Safe Mama Instagram page (up to 10,000 followers) — so when we reach 6,000, 7,000, 8,000, etc. — I am giving away a set of Solidteknics pans to one lucky Instagram follower chosen at random. These prizes are pans that Solidteknics is generously donating for the giveaway, because they are an amazing company. (The owner of Solidteknics is very supportive of this work. They want to see the impact of my childhood Lead-poisoning prevention advocacy grow and thrive!) Here’s the article with all the details for the Instagram giveaway, too!
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing this work. Please feel free to ask questions (in the comments). I will do my best to answer them personally (although it may take a while given the number of questions and inquires I have been getting here on the website recently).
And one final note to Finex peeps:
Get the damn Lead out of your damn pans! And if you have already done this for your newly-manufactured pans, make amends with everyone you have lied to and please openly (and publicly!) offer Lead-free replacement components to people who bought your pans thinking they were a non-toxic, safer, Lead-free alternative. Easy peasy.
*Final note: I have also decided to no longer recommend Lodge cast Iron upon learning that they have acquired Finex. I will be removing links to their products from my site over the coming days.