Re-thinking: Is enamel toxic-free ?

yanitalFebruary 13, 2007


the main point:

pigments (and maybe enamel itself) in the interior pot coating are partially made from metals.

I looked at Le Creuset's stockpots.

The color of the inner enamel was beige.

Le Creuset or similar enameled products, is said to be "the world's safest", "an inert ,non-reactive".

I'd be much interested in such. I want to avoid secretion of metals or toxins into the food I cook. (aluminum, nickel, teflon etc.)

But before I buy, I searched: is it metal-free or toxins free ?

Enamel is essentially a glass (mostly from silicon and oxygen)

but can (or must?) also contain some :

Intermediates : aluminum, titanium, Zirconium,

modifiers: barium, strontium, lead, lithium, bismuth, boron, etc.

Pigments: I assume, that the same pigments for glass are used for the enamel.

many of them are made from metals, which some are poisenous. (besides "lead and cadmium")

also mentioned "organic binder" as taking part of the process.

I sent a simple question to three leading companies: Le Creuset, Chantal, and Silit.

No one replied so far.

If you think there is a sense to this subject, please send questions to them.

maybe you will share with me the answer.

some sources:

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Assuming that your fears are all bourne out in the end.....what would there be left to cook in?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 3:55PM
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I didn't understand the words "bourne out".

what to cook in ? : magnetic fields ? :-)
Well, seriously, I wanted to know if it's wise to buy
enameled stockpot for the reason of "no toxic emissions".

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 4:18PM
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Assuming your fears turn out to be justified...what would be left to cook in?

Your food must be contained in something utterly inert, apparently.

FWIW....I've cooked for my mother much of the latter part of her life in iron, steel, aluminum, enamel-ware, various kinds of non-sticks, pot-metal, and glass. She's 95 and healthy as can be.

Anecdotal, I know. I don't know the answer to your question. Just wondering about the degree of concern.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 6:13PM
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The most inert cookware would be Corningware Visions as it's all glass, but it's all the most horrid cookware to cook with. I think the safest cookware would be one with a porcelain enamel interior like Le Creuset or Staub and the like. I don't think what the cookware contains is as important as what is actually getting into your food from it. There are a lot of other chemicals in your food, toiletries, and environment that you should be more concerned about that are getting into your body, than the miniscule amount of what's leaching from your cookware!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 11:12PM
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What blondelle said.

I do think cooking temperature and time spent "leaching" are other details I've read about in the past re materials. This is one of the reasons, for example, you wouldn't want to store food in the aluminum pan in which you may have prepared the food. Etc.

I try to run an organic kitchen and choose "safer" products in other parts of the house as well. This gives my teen even more material for eye-rolling & witticism. (And when my parents visit, my mom says "that's okay, we'll make do....") But for a myriad of reasons, from health to ethics, considering the chemicals in our lives is important.

I have little interest in the good health of folks born 100 years ago, though I am happy for them! My real interest is in the health of baby boomers & beyond, born into a life that began with a variety of artificial baby milks and moved into artificial substitutes and mega-meds of various experimental stages. No flames! I'm happy for modern advances in medicine and all the conveniencnes of life BUT I'm old enough to know that my generation took the brunt of this experimentation, and kids coming up today are born to parents with more choices and information. An informed choice is so important!

I hope there will be a lot of research and learning with regard to the lifelong and geriatric effects of an early childhood laced with chemical tainting of our food sources and of the environment in which we live our lives. We always want something a little better for all our children.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 12:30PM
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Probably cast iron would be the safest....even non coated.
But there has been no indication that aluminum is unsafe. We know that leaded glass is not good for long term storage of acedic liquids. We know that certain glazes contain heavy metals that may leech out and we know that certain pottery contains unsafe minerals and if not properly glazed can, theoretically, be harmful.
Ourgrandparents ( at least mine) heated with coal and fuel oil. Their furnaces were not as well vented as many are today. Kerosene lamps emitted fumes and smoke. Grandma canned greenbeans without a pressure canner and ate rabbits from the field, perhaps infected with tuleremia. I ate a raw egg in my morning eggnog the all fof my gradeschool years.
I think worrying about what may leach out of an enamel coating which is well vitrified as you will know if you ever cook in one is a little like the old maid who was weeping because she suddenly thought what if I had gotten married to that nice young man who courted me....and what if we had had a baby and what if a brick had fallen out of the chimney and killed the baby in it's bed....Boo Hoo!
The very real worries are the loss of the ozone layer, the pesticides wafting in the breeze, trans-fats, the custom of out kids drinking soda rather than milk...and for that matter hormones in the milk supply.
What do you stir that pot with? a wooden spoon or a stainless one...or a silicone one? And don'e even think about the possibility of being injured and needing a plate and a few screws in your body and the hoses through they might deliver blood and other life saving fluids.
We live in a world where there are benefits and risks, hopefully, balance each other...
So while some of the additives in food may cause cancer....everyday they are discovering new treatments.

It's a rough world out there...
OK...stepping down now!!
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 6:51PM
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Thanks everybody.

Linda C wrote:

"The very real worries are the loss of the ozone layer, the pesticides wafting in the breeze, trans-fats, the custom of out kids drinking soda rather than milk...and for that matter hormones in the milk supply."

:well, I'm getting to that also.. :-)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 4:56PM
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All my mother ever had was aluminum, pitted and dented pots and pans. And one really great iron skillet. Supposedly things can grow in those pits and do really dire things to humans and the iron, well that'll just clog every bone in our body up. Well, I'm still here and relatively healthy, so the last thing I need to worry about is what I'm cooking in, which is stainless steel. Next week they'll probably come out with a study (who does those things anyway?) that will inform me I'm about to meet my Maker.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 10:51PM
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"Next week they'll probably come out with a study..."

Oh, you mean like today's study that now says it may be good afterall for pregnant women to eat fish!!! Gahhhh....

With every additional study I'm convinced that the studies are killing us. Has anyone done a study on that? ;-)

Here is a link that might be useful: CNN: Fish good for pregnant women

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 11:23PM
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OK, but that study didn't seem to correct for *any* other variables -- like the fact that since fish is pricey, the babies of fish-eating mothers probably had better prenatal care (because they could afford that, too), more verbal and intellectual stimulation at home, etc.

Not sure what's more frustrating: the sense that these studies are perhaps conducted in a manner that's scientifically useless when it comes to translating data into real-life decisions, or the equally strong possibility that the media have NO idea how to report on science, and so most of what we read is incomplete and unhelpful.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2007 at 11:53AM
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Enamel, a form of glass as you correctly indicated, is pretty tough stuff.

Glass does not dissolve in hydrochloric, sulfuric, or nitric acids, nor in caustic (basic) solutions. The only thing that readily attacks glass is hydroflouric acid, a pretty uncommon compound to find in a kitchen.

The metals in glass are not just floating around, they are bound up in the glass liquid itself.

Radioactive wastes are frequently stored in glass-lined barrels, as the glass is virtually totally inert.

Your fears are unfounded.

PS don't forget your fork is made (probably) of stainless steel, which contains nickel and chromium. And oh, don't forget that glass does not season, because it is so non-porus, meaning you need a lot more fat to cook in enamel than with other cookware materials.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2007 at 11:47PM
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Yes modern day enameled cookware is completely toxic free.....and completely inert to the normal acids and bases encountered in everyday cooking.

Strong caustics will slowly react with glass or enamel to form harmless hydrated sodium silicate (waterglass)........etching the glass/enamel in the process.....but this would never occur through normal usage. Some cleaning methods I have seen would etch enamel.....but that's a whole different topic.

Your fear of toxic modern day cookware is not based on good science. Keep in mind that all life forms depend on trace metals in their diet. We normally get these from the foods that we eat......all foods contain trace metals. When we don't eat right, we should take a vitamin/mineral supplement to insure we have an adequate supply in our diet. Take at look at the analysis of a vitamin/mineral supplement and see some of the trace metals we all need. Even the water that we drink contains trace metals in the form of minerals......and that's a really good thing. What determines the toxicty of trace metals is the valence state of the metal in question; but, that too is a whole different topic.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 1:19PM
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Folks--Kindly keep in mind that no one leaves this world alive!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 2:47PM
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Yes. Nothing is without toxins of some sort. Even the simple act of cooking a meal produces some toxic toll (the gas from your cooktop, or the electric field if not gas) . Pick your poison.

The important thing is doing the best that you can for you and your family but never forgetting to enjoy your life in the process. We over analyze so much.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 11:17PM
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If you've ever taken a dose of Rolaids or Maalox or similar antacids, you have already ingested more aluminum than a lifetime of cooking with aluminum cookware could possibly ever give you. (Maalox gets its name from its two main ingredients, Magnesium and Aluminum oxides). Oh, yes, also check out the label on some coffee creamers if you want some enlightening reading. Many of them have aluminum as well.

The quality and quantity of what you put in that skillet (and your stomach) is much more important than what the skillet is made of. Having said that, I don't cook with aluminum much simply because it's more reactive than other materials. I prefer other stuff, but not out of alumina-phobia.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 9:10AM
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The only cookware that really concerns me for its potential toxicity is Pewter. I saw a pewter bean pot on ebay the other day up for auction. That scares me because many people do not know that some pewter-ware contains a significant amount of lead. Personally I would never use any pewter-ware for either holding beverages or in cooking.

I have no qualms about using cast or rolled aluminum pans for the type cooking that I do and for the reasons Arley stated.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 10:41PM
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I've done some research. Enamel may have metals to change color, that may or may not leech into your food. Stainless Steel also has combined metals that may or may not leech toxins. Cast Iron may or may not leech toxins. What I have found is that products produced in other countries tend to be of a lesser quality, because there is no quality control. Look at re-calls of toys, because they contain lead paint. If you want to lessen your fears, check the label. If it doesn't say Made In USA, research the product. Even US products can be low quality. Research is the key!!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 4:39AM
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Cast iron is a very reactive metal. It is not considered safe for cooking acidic foods. Cooking, for example, tomato sauce in a cast iron pan will definitely release some iron. I had read years ago there is also at least a small amount of mercury used in creating cast iron. Now I can't find this info. online. Perhaps I read it in a book on canning? Nickel can be leached from stainless steel, and some physicians consider it to be very toxic. Glass cookware or certain types of porcelain and enamel ware are considered to be much more safe (non-reactive or "inert") The newer Staub and Le Creuset cookware (or most high-end European brands) are much more safe, and much less reactive.

The State of California (it's just one state, I know) won't allow items containing lead to be sold in the state. It's possible some imports slip through, but you might try purchasing from an outfit in California, and have your item shipped to you. I'd done extensive prior research on this, and the newer enameled cookware is said to be non-reactive. 'Wish I could give you a better link than the browser search above, but it's a good place to start doing research, at least re: cast iron cookware. I LOVE my cast iron Dutch ovens, but am very wary of cooking acidic foods, or foods with extreme pH levels in them.

I recently contacted a Customer Service rep. at Hamilton Beach. A senior person (quality control manager?) told me each and every Hamilton Beach slow cooker vessel is tested for lead and cadmium prior to going out for retail sale. I asked that question twice; I couldn't believe it at first! 'Thought I'd mention it, because I do a lot of slow cooking, and found that info. to be very reassuring. I don't think they'd have told me that if it weren't true, due to potential liability issues.

'Am still trying to find a non-reactive vessel for pickling. I'm told there's a company selling pickling crocks which imports them from Poland. I'm hoping to contact the company to find out if they warrant their vessels and crocks as "non-reactive."

If you want more info., you might want to join a Weston A. Price forum online. That's a group committed to organic and grass-fed, pastured foods, more or less the way "primitive people" or traditional cultures ate their foods. The WAP'ers are a very health-conscious group, so if you really want to delve into this question, you might want to join one of the WAPF Yahoo groups, and check the archives for this information.

A couple of links:

"non reactive pickling crocks cookware"

and Dr. Mercola's question & answer web page (Dr. M. is really big on subjects like this):
Cast iron reactive?

A sante to you all! Nancy S. in Solano County, Calif.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 12:16AM
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The enamel is added for greater ease in maintenance of the cast iron. Enameled cast iron does not need to be periodically "seasoned". Seasoning is a real pain in the buttox for some people.

Not to mention that the enamel allows for cooking acidic foods without worrying about any unwanted reaction.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 11:35AM
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Older relatives can have less problems with toxic metals
than we would because they were never exposed to the heavy
load of mercury and aluminum in vaccines which we are
exposed to today by the medical community.

When one toxic metal is already established in the
tissues, (mercury's half life in the CNS is 15 to 30
years!!) then the addition of another toxic metal has
multiplied effects on one's health according to studies
cited by Bernie Windham, a chemical engineer.

Also, Boyd Haley, a previous head of the Chemistry dept.
of Kentucky has shown that males are more at risk than
females to the harmful effects of mercury.

So a 95 year old mother, healthy as can be, fits the
findings of these researchers perfectly. And yet, we may
still have a vulnerability that they do not.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 6:53PM
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I surely do not see a problem with someone being concerned about what is or isn't being put in cookware that he/she is considering for purchase. I just don't understand the nastiness.

I don't think anyone not directly involved with the manufacturing process and testing can also state that there are no toxins involved. You have no absolute way of knowing. Lots of things go on these days.

To think that there is never any corruption in the food industry is absurd. The choice as to whether to drink a beverage out of an aluminum can is up to the individual. But don't think for a minute that a large manufacturer has our best interests in mind. They don't. They care about how much money they make.

By the way, to make a blanket statement that what harms birds won't harm humans is not true. Try giving a bird cyanide and then eat it yourself. I suspect the results will be the same.

I expect there will be some nasty comments aimed at me, as well now. I don't care.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 3:08PM
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Just don't cook in Aluminum and don't use Teflon, rest is fine.
Cast iron and mineral steel only add needed minerals to your food, I don't think enameled cast iron does anything.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 8:28PM
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I cook in aluminum. Non hard anodized aluminum, even. It discolors. It pits. But it provides the even heat of cast iron without the weight and need to keep it seasoned. It heats faster, too. It is my favorite cookware, Magnalite. It isn't that thin stuff sold for $35 for a complete set of junk cookware; this is thick cast aluminum. Love it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Magnalite website

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 11:13AM
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I'm not aware of any health issues relating to the use of aluminum cookware. There is no proven nor anecdotal linkage to Alzheimer's Disease, although there are probably lots of scare sites on the internet.

Aluminum is a great heat conductor and is often used in the cladding of stainless steel cookware. Many restaurants use plain-jane aluminum skillets because they are cheap and effective.

My problem with aluminum is that it warps when used over high heat. I have used pots in cooking school whose bases resembled contour maps of the Rockies. The are also prone to pitting and discolouring, especially when acidic foods are left in them too long. I don't operate a commercial kitchen, and I prefer longer lasting products in my home. That is why I use vintage cast iron and carbon steel.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 6:09PM
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The studies are not conclusive that Aluminum plays a role in Alzheimer's which means it may or may not.

I would prefer to stay on the safe side personally, especially since I do not like Aluminum cookware anyway as it is reactive.
Any cookware that imparts a metallic taste to me food I don't want to use.

Here is a link that might be useful: WebMD on Aluminum

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 12:06PM
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