Tamara Rubin is an independent advocate for consumer goods safety, and she is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children. She began testing consumer goods for toxicants in 2009 and was the parent advocate responsible for finding Lead in the popular fidget spinner toys in 2017. She uses XRF testing (a scientific method used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for metallic toxicants (including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, and Arsenic). To read more about the testing methodology employed for the test results reported on this blog, please click this link.
The test results for most of the consumer goods reported on this blog are from items that have been sent in by my readers for testing. This is a collaborative effort (with my readers) to help you make informed decisions for your family (so you can have an idea of what to look for — and what you might want to avoid — in making safer choices for your home).
To keep the research independent of any potential industry influence, this work is funded by Lead Safe Mama readers. Click here if you would like to support this work in some way. Thank you.
Continue reading below the images. All Specific Metals Detected in This Pan (20 in Total):
- Aluminum (Al)
- Antimony (Sb)
- Barium (Ba)
- Bromine (Br)
- Cadmium (Cd)
- Chromium (Cr)
- Cobalt (Co)
- Copper (Cu)
- Lead (Pb)
- Indium (In)
- Iron (Fe)
- Manganese (Mn)
- Mercury (Hg)
- Molybdenum (Mo)
- Nickel (Ni)
- Platinum (Pt)
- Tin (Sn)
- Titanium (Ti)
- Vanadium (V)
- Zinc (Zn)
Metals noted above in red are considered toxic (even in trace amounts) by most standards.
Tuesday — August 3, 2021
I have to start by sharing how I feel about this. This is boring. This has got to be among the most boring things I do at this point. It drags me down and depresses me because it is so d*mn routine! It’s always the SAME headline: “Big company (that makes pots and pans and sells them with greenwashing marketing language and gimmicks) makes products that test positive for all the toxic metals.” So boring — I really could have written this post without even testing the pan (almost) but by having the exact test results for each and every component of the pan (see below). For tests (by a freshly-calibrated XRF instrument) that we repeated multiple times to confirm the results, I ensure the company cannot sue me for publishing the truth about what’s in their products.
Results as Expected
I don’t have a lot to say about this particular product, other than the test results are exactly as I would have expected at this point. The one thing I would like you to consider is: what does their marketing slogan, “without the chemicals,” mean, exactly??
- What does it really mean?
- What does it mean to you?
- What are the manufacturers trying to make it mean?
- What does a customer buying these products expect these statements and promises mean?
It’s a big inquiry — and the answer might be best answered by a 25-page thesis on the subject, but I assert the following: the customer expects, based on the marketing language used, that there are no toxic heavy metals in these pans (none at all). Yet this is simply not the case.
Below are some of the images I recently shared on Instagram, to give context to the concern for the marketing language this company uses (and help address the above questions).
First some insight in response to the fundamental question: “What is a chemical?”
… and separately, an answer to the question “Are metals chemicals?”
And then evidence of the specific claims from the Caraway Home website — see images below:
NOTE — NONE OF THIS ACTUALLY MEANS ANYTHING!
- “Healthy Cooking”
- “Ceramic-coated cookware” (hint: it’s not really “ceramic!”)
- “Mineral-Based Coating” (That’s “code” for metals — metals are minerals!)
- “Discover A Healthier Way To Cook”
- “No Harmful Chemicals”
- “Free of PTFE (such as Teflon), Lead, Cadmium, and other toxic materials…” (Nope! tested positive for trace Lead & Cadmium!)
- “High Quality” (Who’s to judge?)
- “Caraway products are made without any toxic materials…”
- and more specifically: “Made without any toxic materials or … other hard-to-pronounce chemicals.” (Can you say Molybdenum? — I would say that’s hard to pronounce, I always have trouble with it and I have a college degree — lol!)
What’s really wrong with these pans, though?
The levels of toxic heavy metals found are relatively low, aren’t they?
Is it really a problem?
- Main Problem: This company is engaging in greenwashing that verges on false advertising (since no one really has a definition for what “cookware without the chemicals” means, as a standalone statement they might assert that it is not false advertising!).
- While these pans may not be leaching any toxic metals at the time of manufacture, all bets are off when they start to wear, and the coating is no longer perfect.
- The levels of Lead found seem to indicate that the aluminum base is (like similar pans) a Lead-contaminated-Aluminum substrate (this is not unusual to find, especially with recycled aluminum products). We cannot know for sure without destroying the pan (which I will ask the person who purchased it if I have permission to do — and if she says “yes” I will write a post with test results from the destructive testing!).
- These aluminum-based (mixed metals) pans are also created as disposable cookware — cookware that will eventually wear out — so you’ll have to buy it again, which makes them awful for the planet on so many levels (in addition to any potential direct long-term impacts on the user). So their “60% less CO2” claim is irrelevant — considering you’ll have to buy 3 or 4 over time, as each replacement wears out.
- I also have concerns about the Titanium-based surface coatings in these pans (and so many others like them, made today). Others in the “environmental activism”/non-toxic products space as well as myself are quite concerned about the consistent wear of these Titanium-based coated surfaces and the fact that there do not appear to (yet) be long-term studies about the health impacts of ingesting micro-particulates from Titanium-based coating with your food every time you cook in these pans (as the coating wears off). That is not to say they are definitely harming you, but for me, the science is not yet settled as to whether or not they are definitely safe as a long-term cookware piece for your family.
- A recent alarm raised about Titanium dioxide found in certain candies (and the fact that this substance is not considered safe for human consumption in Europe) further supports my concern here — that I believe this type of Titanium-based cookware needs more study before it can be determined safe.
Continue reading below the image
What should we use instead?
If you would like my recommendations on how to purchase a truly Lead-free pan (what my personal “safer choices” are when cooking for my own family), please click through and read my recent overview post on pots and pans. Here’s the link to that post. Continue reading below the image. You don’t even have to buy any specific pots and pans I recommend — just follow the GUIDELINES set forth in this post for buying ANY pots and pans, of any brand that adheres to these guidelines:
And with that, here are the full XRF test results for the cream-and-gray colored Caraway pan pictured in this post. Please continue reading below each of the images to see the reading set for the components featured in each image.
#1.) Silver-colored metal of bottom of pan (image above)
Stainless Steel 430/40
- Bromine (Br): 28 +/- 5 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 162,700 +/- 400 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 943 +/- 95 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 4,490 +/- 303 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 828,700 +/- 700 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 1,775 +/- 121 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 945 +/- 69 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 65 +/- 21 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 170 +/- 109 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 35 +/- 10 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 117 +/- 38 ppm
Below, I have included three separate reading sets of the surface as a way of demonstrating that the levels of Lead and Antimony found are replicable. The balance of makeup on these readings is Aluminum (approx: 850,000 ppm).
#2.) Gray Food Surface reading #1 (image above)
- Lead (Pb): 44 +/- 4 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 14,400 +/- 300 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 2,846 +/- 116 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 4,628 +/- 93 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 5,218 +/- 71 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 342 +/- 12 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 118,100 +/- 1,100 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 12 +/- 3 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): 45 +/- 5 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 159 +/- 14 ppm
#3.) Gray Food Surface reading #2
- Lead (Pb): 51 +/- 4 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 14,900 +/- 300 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 2,967 +/- 113 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 4,791 +/- 91 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 5,237 +/- 69 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 342 +/- 12 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 120,200 +/- 1,100 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 11 +/- 3 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): 45 +/- 5 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 150 +/- 14 ppm
#4.) Gray Food Surface reading #3
- Lead (Pb): 48 +/- 3 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 14,200 +/- 200 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 3,117 +/- 93 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 4,726 +/- 74 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 5,078 +/- 55 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 358 +/- 10 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 115,300 +/- 800 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 11 +/- 2 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): 42 +/- 4 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 159 +/- 11 ppm
#5.) Cream-colored exterior reading #1 (images at top of post)
- Lead (Pb): 47 +/- 4 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 392 +/- 94 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 5,219 +/- 121 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 2,766 +/- 71 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 33 +/- 21 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 381 +/- 16 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 409 +/- 12 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 156,900 +/- 1,300 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 12 +/- 3 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): 11 +/- 4 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 183 +/- 14 ppm
#6.) Silver-colored metal of handle of pan (image above)
Stainless Steel 201
30-second reading (over logo area)
- Chromium (Cr): 163,100 +/- 600 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 1,463 +/- 153 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 64,100 +/- 700 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 712,100 +/- 1,100 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 41,600 +/- 500 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 16,600 +/- 300 ppm
- Molybdenum (Mo): 706 +/- 52 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 49 +/- 15 ppm
#7.) Silver-colored exterior flat portion of handle rivets (image above)
- Lead (Pb): 14 +/- 2 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 3 +/- 1 ppm
- Mercury (Hg): 26 +/- 4 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 1,046+/- 93 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 3,572 +/- 63 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 73 +/- 18 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 120 +/- 6 ppm
- Indium (In): 3 +/- 2 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 339 +/- 13 ppm
#8.) Silver-colored interior rounded portion of handle rivets (image above)
30-second reading — Stainless Steel 321
- Chromium (Cr): 180,600 +/- 700 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 1,259+/- 193 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 11,600 +/- 500 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 718,800 +/- 1,200 ppm
- Cobalt (Co): 995 +/- 628 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 79.500 +/- 800 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 2,608 +/- 176 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 106 +/- 41 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 2,973 +/- 292 ppm
- Molybdenum (Mo): 1,026 +/- 66 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 471 +/- 77 ppm
Some additional reading that might be of interest:
- The post discussing the testing methodology used on this website.
- A post discussing how to send in an item for testing.
- Things that you can test at home.
- Things that might be better tested with an XRF instrument.
Thanks for reading. Thank you for sharing my posts. As always, please let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them personally as soon as I have a moment (which may not be right away — but I will try!).
Amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase something after clicking on one of my links I may receive a percentage of what you spend — at no extra cost to you.
Ashutosh Kumawat says
Can you share all of your testing setup and procedure as well so that we (those who can perform) can do these experiments with our utensils and could know and help others?
It’s linked above in the post. This is not something you can do at home unless you have an instrument for testing consumer goods that can cost $30,000 to $50,000.
Nicole Osborne says
Hi Tamara! Thank you for all of your research. I am trying to figure out what pans to buy. It seems like everything I research has something. I use a lodge cast iron and am looking into nickel free stainless steel. You say aluminum is bad but all the stainless steel I find has an aluminum core ? Is this with all stainless steel pans or what do you recommend? I’ve found ones with a copper core too but read that’s also bad. Just very confused and want to use the healthiest option. Thanks !
Copper and aluminum core likely have no health impacts. They are fully sandwiched between stainless and used for heat dispersion.
Here’s my overview post on cookware – there are some suggested pieces towards the bottom of the post:
I have some 24 Element Platinum Brand Pans that are stainless steel. I would love your thoughts on the quality/Toxicity of these! They are supposed to be amazing pans and are expensive to buy but I am more concerned with if they are healthy to co with! Thank you for all your research!
I don’t recall testing that brand.If they meet the standards outlined in my overview post they may be fine:
Well crap! I have these pans. Been using everyday for like 9 months. If I understand correctly, they are safe until the coating wears off? Which I know will happen over time.
That is one interpretation, yes. Not a risk I personally would be willing to take with my family.
Thanks so much for this! I was tempted by the claims and cute colors, but knew enough to be wary. Titanium Dioxide is a concern for sure. I get some scary reactions from it – even in sunscreen applied to the skin. So hope that the FDA is considering it’s safety. It’s not just in candies, but is also used as a filler in so many medications (white pills, mostly) which makes it hard to take something if I need to. Glad to have found your blog. Thanks for all you do!
Jennifer B says
Thank you for all that you do here!!
I have an Our Place pan that is similar in branding/aesthetic/greenishness to Caraway, lost its “silicon dioxide non-stick” quickly and makes me very suspicious. Another one is the F52 pans. Also apparently “Ceramic”. These so-called non-stick properties probably ended up in our omelettes I assume, because they are gone now. I can donate these to your cause if you like!
What about Visions Glass cookware?
Please put “Vision” or “Vision ware” in the search bar and you will find all of the related posts.
Jane Smith says
My concern with cast iron is that it emits huge amounts of VOC smoke. I use olive oil on the lowest setting possible but my house is filled with VOC levels triple that in the safe level (I have an accurate VOC reader). Breathing in toxic fumes for 30 plus minutes even with all of the windows open makes it seem worth the cost to just rebuy pots every year. Thoughts/suggestions?
You should never use olive oil for cooking – it is carcinogenic when heated.
Wait, olive oil is carcinogenic when heated? Do you mean it can become carcinogenic when olive oil is heated past it’s smoke point or do you believe olive oil is carcinogenic when heated 5 degrees above room temperature? I’m having trouble finding confirmation. Thanks!
I’ll find you some links. But that could be the source of your meter going off. It’s not likely it’s the cast iron (if it is plain uncoated cast iron.)
KAREN ROCCO says
Contrary to what you may have heard, olive oil does not lose its health benefits or become unhealthy when heated. Olive oil has been used for cooking for thousands of years. It is a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet.
I have these pans too. After reading this article I was mortified. Is there any type of lawsuit because of all the toxic chemicals present when they claim there are non?
I at least would like a refund but I’m pretty sure I’ve had these over their return window. This is so disturbing considering I bought these so my family could be safer.
Hi same here. I wish I had known better, I just sent an email to return them I bought them on October, maybe is too late but is worth trying, I have a 21 month old, I feel so mortified right now. I will update if they answer to my email. Between this and the KitchenAid.
Rachel M says
I’m in the same boat! Did you ever hear back from them?
I too have purchased two sets one fir me one for my daughter in law. Plus I have the baking set which I have still yet to use. I want a refund! This is such deceptive marketing. Have you contacted them and had any response?
Oh my! This is so concerning, we just purchased the entire set, except for the tea pot!
Thank you so much for testing these pans….I purchased them and have been unhappy with their performance and durability and they are NOT cheap!!! I have the bakeware as well and am so upset rigor now I just really want my money back as that is not non-toxic according to your testing. What pans do you recommend?
They are not cheap and my set has not worn well either so upset anout this as we have illness in the family and try and avoid all chemicals. Have you contacted them Yet and heard anything back?
is teflon not safe?
Noooooo! It’s considered the forever chemical…. Once in your body it’s there fir good!