Lead in crockpots is disturbing, especially if you rely heavily upon a crock pot. My crock pot is always bubbling. I strongly believe in the healing anti-aging magic of bone broth. So, my daughter and I drink bone broth almost daily, which has simmered in a pot for 48 hours. After hearing about the lead scare in crock pots I was concerned if these good intentions are causing more harm than good?
I started with looking into brand claims, and noticed the claim “meets FDA safety standards”. This naturally lead to what is the FDA safety standard? After a little digging, the FDA lists the “safety standards” for ceramic dishware. A crock pot would fall under large hollow-ware, and has an allowable lead level of 1mg/kg. Before finding this I was sidetracked by other disturbing information.
Did you know their is FDA guidance of acceptable lead levels in candy, and a long list of children’s vitamins testing positive for lead. Four brands exceeded the FDA’s “tolerable intake” of lead levels. This unfortunate list can be found here. Yea, disgust! All upsetting to say the least, and really is there an acceptable “safe” or “tolerable” level of lead? The answer…..
NO! There is no acceptable level of lead. Low level chronic lead exposure is disastrous affecting the nervous system, kidney function, muscle and bone development, and brain development. Children are at the greatest risk, because of their small body mass and developing organs. Many studies have proven low level lead exposure lowers cognitive development. Lead accumulates in bone and teeth tissue. Up to 90% of lead in an adult body will settle in bone and teeth, and 70% in a child’s body. This impairs red blood cell function and development, calcium processes, and much more (find out more here and here and here).
So how do we know if our crock pots have lead?
The FDA standards provide little comfort. If you rely heavily upon a crock pot, this could add up to a lot of lead accumulation. I’ve been reading of people using the lead test swabs, that are easily found on Amazon. However, these are not able to peer within the crock pot. The swabs are designed to chemically react to surface lead, and their intended use is for painted items. It can’t check within the crock pot, below the glaze. If the glaze is lead free, the ceramic below it might not be and could leach. Especially, if the glaze is old, breaking down, nicked or scratched. So these swabs are an unreliable indicator for testing crock pots.
Lead Free America explains, these swabs are intended for painted items, so they can’t give reliable results for crock pots. “This is because THEY USE A CHEMICAL REAGENT TECHNOLOGY—THAT WAS NOT INTENDED, DESIGNED OR FORMULATED FOR THESE USES. To discover lead embedded within a material…one needs a completely different kind of tool—a sophisticated instrument that can peer into molecular structure and read the item’s elemental make-up—called an X-Ray fluorescence spectrometer (an XRF)!”
Lead Safe America has provided the best information I could find so far. They area a non profit that provides education on lead, and travels to homes to test items for lead. They use an XRF gun. Per Lead Safe America “it is the ONLY tool that can give you quantifiable specific levels of lead. XRF instruments range in price from $10,000 to $40,000.”
Lead Free America has traveled to homes and tested a few crock pots. Some of the crock pots tested positive. Sun Beam contained lead but was within the “safety standards,” and Tru brand also contained lead. Hamilton Beach was negative, except for the white lettering on the outside of the crock pot, but the lettering is not near the food. Check out their findings here.
I love mommy bloggers for putting in such hard work to keep their family safe and sharing with the rest of us. A brilliant mommy at Terminal Verbosity, took it upon herself and collected a variety of crock pots. She then had them tested with the XRF gun. They all came back clean. She tested several Rivals, Hamilton Beach, and a West Bend (her findings here.)
What do I use? I have a Hamilton Beach. This is what Hamilton Beach claims on their website:
“Hamilton Beach specifications applicable to all slow cookers and their components (including the earthenware crocks) prohibits the product from containing any measurable amounts of lead. Furthermore, the factories that manufacture the earthenware crocks for Hamilton Beach are certified ceramic production facilities whose ceramic ware is deemed to satisfy FDA heavy metal requirements.”
Terminal Verbosity & Lead Safe America both found Hamilton Beach ceramic to be lead free (with the exception of the lettering on the outside). So I am going to stick with my Hamilton Beach. I like that it holds 8 quarts, so I can make large batches of bone broth, and has a handy warm setting too. You can check out Hamilton Beach here.
For more about bone broth magic, read this.
Happy slow cooking