Is there a danger in Cast aluminum cookware?

14 Jan
Q. I found your site on web looking for “dangers of aluminum cookware”. I have recently acquired my grandmother’s “cast aluminum cookware”. Not being a chemist I am not sure if that is the same as anodized. It brings back many fond memories and I like the way it cooks. I would really like to use it. Several members of my family have given warnings about cooking in them causing health problems. I tell them Grams lived to be 86 and they are all she used for 50 years. Is there any real validity to their concerns? I am a nurse and know there was some rumor about Alzheimer’s but I thought that had been dispelled. Please help ease our minds. Thanks Barb

Barbara P

– Rabun Gap, Georgia

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Hi Barb

Cast” means formed by pouring molten metal into a mold of that shape as opposed to being machined from a solid block.

Anodized” means electrochemically treated to form a thick and stable oxidation layer. The two terms are neither mutually exclusive nor mutually inclusive.

Maybe I can “ease your mind” by reminding you that “The News” is big business. So, if anyone finds even the smallest indication that something as common as aluminum cookware might increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, then “Toxic Timebomb in Your Kitchen?!” will be on the 11 o’clock news around the world. As you’ve found, when that study is discredited, you won’t hear a peep because “Cookware is safe after all” is hardly the kind of teaser that will get you to stay up and tune in; so don’t expect balance.

The politicians you elect are in the same position: It is in their interest to constantly conjure up hobgoblins (please google: ‘mencken hobgoblins’).

Personally, I’m not worried about it, and I’m confident that if you do a library search through Science News [link is to product info at Amazon], Scientific American [link is to product info at Amazon], The Journal of the American Medical Association, etc. that you’ll find enough info to assure yourself and your mother. But if you choose the internet instead, you’ll find enough undocumented scare literature to read to waste the rest of your life on.

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

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I have several pieces of my mother and grandmother’s cast aluminum which are my favorite cookware of all time. She & my grandmother lived to almost 90 with no signs of any kind of dementia.

Dorothy Callahan– Baldwin, Maryland

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My Mom always used S.O.S. pads to clean her Guardian Service.

I still wonder if it is safe to cook in cast aluminum.

Grace Barkwell– Ontario, Canada

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Regarding the “Is aluminum safe to cook with/” question. Over 20 years ago, I heard the professor speak who had been quoted as the source of the connection between aluminum in the brain and Alzheimer’s diseases. His research had found an excess of aluminum in the brain of such patients. He did not believe that cooking in aluminum had any connection to the development of alzheimer’s disease. He believes that the myth of danger of cooking was started when someone asked him what he cooked with and he answered “Teflon cookware.” Apparently no one asked or quoted him as to why. He thought it was easier to clean! True story. Heard this at a conference on aging from the expert himself. Unfortunately, I don’t recall his name. (ok, there is some humor in not being able to remember the name of the expert on Alzheimer’s disease 🙂

John Swank– Troy, Ohio

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My grandmother used her aluminum cookware until she died. She was in her 70’s and died of a heartache, but previously had a very sharp mind. I have always used the aluminum cookware (30+ years). I believe that with all the other environmental causes of aluminum that are around, we would not only have to quit cooking with aluminum, but curtail half of our diet and our air – if we believe that it makes that much difference. I personally do not believe anything that makes its way through the newspapers or internet. If there is something I am concerned about, I ask my doctor, pharmacist or look it up myself in the library and get solid facts to back it up. With the solid facts and my grandmothers full, happy, and sharp life to go on I believe I will go on using my aluminum cookware.

Ruthe Bullingtonretired – Markleysburg, Pennsylvania

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, Public Health Service

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

HIGHLIGHTS: Everyone is exposed to low levels of aluminum from food, air, and water. Exposure to high levels of aluminum may result in respiratory problems. Aluminum has been found in at least 427 of the 1,467 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This fact sheet answers the most frequently asked health questions (FAQs) about aluminum. For more information, call the ATSDR Information Center at 1-888-422-8737. This fact sheet is one in a series of summaries about hazardous substances and their health effects. It’s important you understand this information because this substance may harm you. The effects of exposure to any hazardous substance depend on the dose, the duration, how you are exposed, personal traits and habits, and whether other chemicals are present.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry ToxFAQs June 1999

TSDR

CAS # 7429-90-5 Some studies show that people with Alzheimer’s disease have more aluminum than usual in their brains. We do not know whether aluminum causes the disease or whether the buildup of aluminum happens to people who already have the disease. Infants and adults who received large doses of aluminum as a treatment for another problem developed bone

Melissa Hernandez– Clearwater, Florida

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Following considerable research in the 90’s, I found no factual evidence linking the use of aluminum cookware with Alzheimer’s Disease. Consequently, I have continued to use aluminum cookware. Due to the fact that we humans are not cloned or identical, each individual body will respond and/or react to difference substances in unique ways. My paternal grandmother is 103 years old and has complete clarity of her intellect. She has been using aluminum cookware for most of her adult life. Every morning she prepares espresso coffee in her aluminum coffee pot. This is a fact. However, this does not mean that cooking with aluminum cookware is safe. It only means that it does not appear to have caused detriment to my grandmother. My perspective is that we should all not ‘believe’ the opinions or the recommendations we share on the internet or elsewhere. We can take individual responsibility for this type of inquiry, do our own research and form our own opinions and proceed accordingly. Researching any given subject, requires the willingness to search for genuine and authentic facts and tediously sift through the disinformation that we sometimes accept as factual evidence.

Sara Fernandez– Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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Paranoia? Bear with me…please: I just bought some used aluminum pots. I washed them with a Steel Wool [link is to product info at Rockler] product, the water was black (curious). Observing this, I then washed the pots thoroughly with soap, water and a scrubbie. After drying, I then rubbed the inside of the pots with my finger numerous times and received a dark metallic residue on my finger (curious). Thinking I was going crazy, I rubbed again with other fingers…all covered with a metallic film(hmm).

Some of us know western society is in the business of getting us sick and keeping us there, but I will not be sold on this issue, I won’t take the chance, or be a stat. And I’m a firm believer in research, and yes there are proponents and opponents. Aluminum is aluminum, I don’t think I’ll be using any aluminum, if I can help it.

I’ll stick with my instinct, and wash away the evidence and worry that is all over my fingers.

Trey Sargent– Santa Cruz, California

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Hi Trey. If you are successful in avoiding the trappings of civilization because you “know western society is in the business of getting us sick and keeping us there”, you’ll be left walking, standing, sitting and lying on surfaces that are made of aluminum. Third only to oxygen & silicon, aluminum is the most common material on earth. The dirt, the sand, the mud, the rocks, and everything in nature is largely aluminum; without those trappings, you’ll be eating and breathing a lot of it 🙂

Note that aluminum dissolves in alkali; dishwasher detergent or laundry detergent is a problem and the probable cause of the blackening. I, too, might throw away a pot of unknown history which reacted the way you described. Good luck with cookware that you’ll be more content with.

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

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Here are my thoughts:

Aluminum is a naturally occurring element.

Teflon has been created by man.

I fear more what man has created than what occurs naturally on our planet.

My grandmother is 91, sharp as a whip and had been using aluminum cookware since pre-1955.

I have recently rid myself of non-stick coating cookware.

And that’s all I have to say on the subject!

Vanessa Cannucci– Overland Park

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You know, anecdotes about peoples grandmothers and the natural source of aluminium are well and fine. Besides the one post from the govt above, nothing here is useful.

You know, I think lead is natural too, I don’t recommend eating it or cooking with it.

Here is the best article I could find, from the US FDA (FDA Consumer magazine article I guess):

Is That Newfangled Cookware Safe?

by Dale Blumenthal

http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/CONSUMER/CON00036.html

for example:

” Chemicals that migrate from cookware into food are considered food additives (substances that become a component of a food or otherwise affect its characteristics) and are therefore under FDA’s jurisdiction. FDA addresses safety concerns about housewares on a case-by-case basis.

For instance, after a California family suffered acute lead poisoning from drinking orange juice stored in a ceramic pitcher bought in Mexico, FDA initiated a formal compliance action in 1971 limiting the amount of lead that may leach from products used to hold food. In taking this action, the agency relied on food additive provisions that prohibit adulterating a food by adding poisonous and deleterious substances to the food. Since then, FDA has tightened restrictions on lead. (See An Unwanted Souvenir: ead in Ceramic Ware, in the December 1989-January 1990 issue of FDA Consumer.)

section on aluminium:

Aluminum

More than half (52 percent) of all cookware sold today is made of aluminum, according to Cookware Manufacturers Association executive vice president Paul Uetzmann. But most of these aluminum pots and pans are coated with nonstick finishes or treated using a process that alters and hardens the structure of the metal.

In the 1970s, Canadian researchers reported that the brains of Alzheimer?s disease victims contained abnormally high levels of aluminum. The studies stirred a controversy about whether aluminum is the cause or result of the disease. At the same time, many concerned consumers discarded their natural aluminum cookware.

Stephen Levick, M.D., from Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., wrote in a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, out with my corroded aluminum pots.

John Koning, M.D., from Riverside General Hospital in Corona, Calif., responded, most ingested aluminum is recovered in the feces, and much more is ingested by a person taking antacids than one could ever leach from an aluminum pan. Dr. Levick has thrown away his pots and pans to no avail? Researchers still are investigating the connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. But according to Creighton Phelps, Ph.D., director of medical and scientific affairs at the Alzheimer’s Association, much recent data support the theory that brains already damaged by Alzheimer’s disease may permit entry of abnormally high levels of aluminum. As FDA and researchers point out, aluminum is ubiquitous. It is the third most abundant element in the earth’s crust (after oxygen and silicon). It is in air, water and soil, and ultimately in the plants and animals we eat.

Many over-the-counter medicines also contain aluminum. According to the Aluminum Association, one antacid tablet can contain 50 milligrams of aluminum or more, and it is not unusual for a person with an upset stomach to consume more than 1,000 milligrams, or 1 gram, of aluminum per day. A buffered aspirin tablet may contain about 10 to 20 milligrams of aluminum. In contrast, in a worst-case scenario, a person using uncoated aluminum pans for all cooking and food storage every day would take in an estimated 3.5 milligrams of aluminum daily. Aluminum cookware manufacturers warn that storing highly acidic or salty foods such as tomato sauce, rhubarb, or sauerkraut in aluminum pots may cause more aluminum than usual to enter the food. (Also, undissolved salt and acidic foods allowed to remain in an aluminum pot will cause pitting on the pot’s surface.) However, aluminum intake is virtually impossible to avoid, and the amount leached in food from aluminum cookware is relatively minimal, according to Thomas.

FDA reviewed existing data because of consumer concern and formally announced in May 1986 that the agency has no information at this time that the normal dietary intake of aluminum, whether from naturally occurring levels in food, the use of aluminum cookware, or from aluminum food additives or drugs, is harmful.

Jack Brown– Atlanta, Georgia

[link is to reviews of this book at Amazon]Thanks for the quotes, Jake! Please continue to contribute whatever thoughts you wish, and to disagree as strongly as you wish with anything posted here — but do not insult the other posters with comments like “nothing here is useful”. That is a characterization I completely disagree with anyway. Yes, official government reports are more trustworthy than anecdotes, but I certainly don’t feel that Rachel Carson’s

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey +++++++

I believe in good research and trusted sources; so, here is a good read from the Alzheimer’s Association.

http://www.alz.org/documents/national/FSAluminum.pdf

They are leaning toward “inconclusive”.

I like the cliche … “better safe than sorry.”

Paul H. Jackman– San Antonio, Texas

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That is indeed a great read, Paul; thank you very much for it! But I cannot possibly interpret the conclusions the way you have. I see:

“The vast majority of mainstream scientists now believe that if aluminum plays any role at all in Alzheimer’s, that role is small.”

“. . . most mainstream health professionals believe, based on current knowledge, that exposure to aluminum is not a significant risk factor. Public health bodies sharing this conviction include the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Health Canada. . .”

“Further, it is unlikely that people can significantly reduce their exposure to aluminum through such measures as avoiding aluminum-containing cookware, foil, beverage cans, medications and other products.”

“Inconclusive”? “Better safe than sorry”? Where did you find that in the article you referenced? You must be thinking of some other article 🙂

Thanks again.

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

March 15, 2008

Aluminum is everywhere. So are many things all over the earth that are poisonous when ingested. Common sense tells me not to eat aluminum, or put anything into my body that has been in an aluminum container. I use cast iron skillets.

Bettina Frriedman– San Diego, California

March , 2008

Hi, Bettina. Use whatever cookware you prefer, for whatever reason. But when you say “common sense tells me . . .”, what do you mean? Common sense tells me that aluminum is safe. What is your “common sense” seeing that makes you frightened of aluminum containers but comfortable with cast iron?

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

April 8, 2008

I find this site very interesting. Today, I finally found my mum’s old “Chicken Bucket” low pressure fryer. It is made of aluminum. My husband insisted that I not use it again after tonight because of what it’s made of and instead to purchase a very pricey stainless steel low pressure fryer. After having a wonderful chicken dinner and cleaning everything up, I decided that perhaps I should just see if the jury is still out on “Aluminum cookware causes Alzheimer’s”.

Well, after reading the many posts that support aluminum cookware, I just might not be so hasty to trash my Mumma’s Chicken Bucket. I also read that these pots were dangerous because they exploded… Not sure how that would happen if you read (studied) the directions on how to use it. Anyway, thanks for the info.

Marilu Gibbs– Forest, Ontario, Canada

May 23, 2008

There seems to be “scare” literature on the Internet on just about any subject. Regarding aluminum pots and pans, we could try to read all the Government literature on the subject, or we could just use our common sense. My common sense: My mother used Club Aluminum pots and pans from 1940 until she died in 2000. I grew up eating foods she cooked in them every day of my childhood and young adulthood. My wife and I used a set of Club Aluminum pots and pans from the day we married in 1968 forward, and I still have all of them and use them every day. I raised my two children on foods I cooked in them. They are now approaching age 40 and I am 65. And the three of us are still alive and healthy.

This nonsense about the danger of aluminum cooking forced the excellent Club Aluminum Company out of business. Fortunately when my daughter got married in 1996 they were still available and I bought her a set of them.

No matter what it is, there is somebody claiming it will do serious damage to you. For the past few years it has been electric blankets and clock radios in bedrooms. It appears they send electromagnet waves RIGHT INTO YOUR BRAIN! The same articles advise NEVER to microwave food, never to eat at restaurants who use microwave ovens, etc.

All of this is nonsense, and we know it because jillions of us who use electric blankets, clock radios and microwave ovens are still here after many, many years.

It’s a matter of common sense.

James Zemboy– Detroit, Michigan

June 22, 2008

While growing up, my father prevented us from cooking in Aluminum cookware because of the Alzeimer theory – and so we have been cooking in Stainless.

I found an excellent website on The Dangers of Aluminum Toxicity – I believe written by the Medicine Editor.

http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art7739.asp

Scroll down and read number 2:

2) Use stainless steel, glass, or iron cookware. Stainless steel is the best choice.

Sofia C– Reading, Pennsylvania

June 23, 2008

Hi, Sofia; thanks. That link was also offered on letter 17519. But that was not Bellaonline’s “Medicine Editor” it was their “Alternative MedicineEditor”.

There is clearly a place for alternative medicine / natural medicine, but just as we recognize that manufacturers are vested in technology, we also need to recognize that natural medicine is vested in anti-technology, and liable to find risk in everything that is manufactured. Please see the quotes above from the Alzheimer’s Association, which does not appear to share the concern of that particular alternative medicine editor at all.

Regards and thanks again,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

July 4, 2008

My question is as follows: I am going camping with some friends and want to give them a pioneer experience. but I have a limited budget. I went to a discount store and saw some aluminum cookware that my Spanish friends use a lot to cook rice and beans. The company name is Torware. First, is this type of cookware toxic? If not, then next question: Can I use this cookware directly on the campfire? Do I have to prepare it like the cast Iron pots?

A swift reply would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Hunt– New York, New York

July 8, 2008

Hi, Elizabeth. If you don’t believe the Alzeimer’s association when they see no danger in aluminum, that’s fine — such associations have sometimes been wrong. If you don’t believe that the government prevents companies from stocking department store shelves with toxic pots, that’s okay too — the government has made mistakes.

But if you believe neither of these generally reputable sources, what could a stranger like me on the internet possibly say to convince you that it’s safe? It would be a waste of breath. Have a great camping experience!

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

August 4, 2008

You can believe whatever you like but cooking out of aluminum pots and pans is VERY bad for your health. The metal when heated opens the pores and leaches into your food. Nasty, Nasty. Getting your blood poisoned is no way to live.

Alex Royal– San Diego, California

August 7, 2008

It’s probably too late for your camping trip, but any pot that you put directly on the campfire will need to be soaped first (on the outside) to keep it from becoming permanently blackened by the smoke. Is that what you meant about preparing an aluminum pot the same as you would a cast iron one?

Barbara

Barbara Millikan– Sheridan Oregon

August 11, 2008

Hi Ted,

We crossed paths before when I worked in a coating firm in Georgia. You helped me when investigating hard chrome platings. Like others I found your thread when googling food grade aluminum. I already knew you as a straight shooter so it was fun to read this thread- and helpful. Good moderating and great to see all sides. I had this discussion with my wife just this A.M. about “raw” aluminum vs. anodized. (set me off in search mode) I told her 90% of her aluminum cookware was raw non anodized, and anodized while harder, is no difference in cookware safety. Trying to get a bead on raw aluminum food complaint aspects.

Brad

Brad Barrett– Cartersville, Georgia

August 13, 2008

Hi, Brad. Nice to hear from you again, and thanks for the kind words.

I personally doubt that there is a safety issue, but I think hard anodized aluminum has a nice advantage in stability and appearance. Our Calphalon hard anodized pans are great. We bought a Bialetti aluminum espresso coffee pot a few months ago, as shown in Amazon picture to right [disclaimer: we get a commission if a reader buys one through this link], with little if any anodizing thickness.

We don’t use it much, and when I went to make cappuccino yesterday there was quite a bit of ugly corrosion inside (probably from neglecting to dry it and letting it sit moist for a couple of weeks). I don’t think it would grow this unsightly corrosion if it was hard anodized even if left wet.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

August 14, 2008

I Have read all the comments about aluminum cookware. I am not questioning their safety in any other respect than why is it that we have washed these skillets with soap and water and keep getting black all over our towels. We just bought these today at a restaurant supply house to use at our church. We are concerned about what we should do. Can you help?

SJD

Sara Darden– Corinth, Texas

Hi, Sara. The “black” that you and Trey speak of is probably aluminum oxide. If the cookware is not anodized, or the anodizing has worn off or been dissolved off in a dishwasher, the aluminum on the surface will combine with oxygen and form aluminum oxide. Very fine dusts appear black because they reflect no light. Ideally this would be well attached to the pot, but sometimes it is only loosely adherent and rubs off. It is certainly unaesthetic regardless of your position on the safety issues discussed here.

I think putting aluminum pots in the dishwasher with alkaline detergents is the main cause. I think it will go away if you only use mild detergents like the dishwashing liquids made for hand use but I don’t know from experience. Try washing one pot with a mild acid like lemon juice or diluted vinegar and let us know what you find.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey October 20, 2008

Ted, in your response dated August 13, 2008 you mention corrosion inside the the coffee pot. Would that be unhealthy to keep using? I have a coffee pot that is specifically for putting water in on top of the stove. There’s no way to reach in and clean it. I’ve had more than one over the years and have seen them corrode to the point of getting holes in the bottom and leaking. I’ve thrown some away before they reach the point of getting holes.

My question is are they safe to use? What is an alternative? Thanks.

Kathy Schafer– Columbus, Ohio

October 26, 2008

Hi, Kathy. While it would be nice if someone could offer you a factual answer on the safety of aluminum, they can’t. All they can offer is opinion. Mine, which I’ve offered to the point of exhaustion on this and similar threads, is that your coffee pot is harmless based on the evidence you see discussed here and on many similar letters here. An alternative would be a stainless steel pot if you can find one. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

March 3, 2009

I remain skeptical.

As pointed out, the media is big business. They used this observation to debunk sensationalist arguments, but it works both ways: Aluminum is big business and we have every reason in the world to believe that in this day and age of PR and spin, industries such as tobacco, aluminum, etc., are going to do all they can to muddy the waters. Unfortunately, gone are the days you can simply turn on the TV and believe what you hear and see.

It has been said that aluminum occurs naturally and makes up about 8% of the surface of the earth. As someone else points out, lead occurs naturally too, but that doesn’t mean I want lead-based paint in my child’s room. The govt source cited above goes on to say that in nature aluminum “is always found combined with other elements such as oxygen, silicon, and fluorine”. That’s why you don’t dig in the dirt and come across aluminum rocks. Pure aluminum (like in your frying pan) is the result of manufacturing. Oxygen, silicon, and fluorine may well render it inert.

Again, it was said that aluminum is “in the water”; it’s “in the air”. That’s a specious argument. It depends on what water and air you are talking about. Mustard gas occurred in “the” water and “the” air in WWI, too, but that didn’t mean everyone everywhere had to put on a gas mask. You only did if you were near the source. The govt article cited above states that “drinking water with high levels of aluminum near waste sites, manufacturing plants, or areas naturally high in aluminum” is one of the major ways to be exposed to aluminum (how many antacids and buffered aspirin do you take?). The question is whether cooking with aluminum (which, when heated, has different properties than aluminum+oxygen+silicon+fluorine in dirt) is bad for you or not.

All I know is Alzheimer’s patients’ brains are full of aluminum. And I don’t trust a bunch of possibly industry-sponsored websites to tell me the truth.

Charles Mills– Monterey, California

Hi, Charles. You say it was a ‘specious’ argument to claim that aluminum must be safe because it is everywhere . . . but no one even advanced that argument. Rather, I told Trey, who claims that “western society is in the business of getting us sick and keeping us there”, that avoiding the trappings of western society will not further the goal of reducing or eliminating her exposure to an earth where it is everywhere. And knock off the ad hominems please; all they do is knock a discussion off the rails while making the thread a less pleasant place to visit.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

March 28, 2009

Is Sanding Magnalite Cookware a Health Hazard? My name is Willie May Freeman, and I live in Alvin, Texas.

I recently purchased some older Wagner Ware Magnalite Cookware as well as Guardian Service Cookware because those are what my mother had cooked with when I was a child and I remember her food was delicious! I know that there is no proof that aluminum cooking pans and Alzheimer’s are linked in any way, but my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 62 years of age and passed away 16 years later from it. By the same token, my dad ate what my mom ate that was cooked in the same pots, and he lived to be 94. So, I was not afraid of the aluminum pots being the culprit for my mother’s Alzheimer’s. I really like the heavy pots and have acquired several. Some of the items I obtained are in beautiful condition, and when I asked how this could be at their age, I was told that they were sanded with sandpaper. That concerns me a little because I am wondering if the pots have been sanded down to a different kind of material. Does this make the cookware unsafe to cook in? If the pots are pitted are they unsafe to cook in?

Thank you for any info you can give me on this.

Willie May Freeman– Alvin, Texas

May 2, 2009

Sandpaper to clean cast aluminum? I wouldn’t use it…

I have always used SOS pads because they make my pans shinier than they were to begin with. The Shinier, the less sticking. I love my pans, my parents used them, and my relations all died due to high blood pressure, stroke, etc. (from eating too much and too high of fat with no exercise!) No alzheimer’s in my extended family at all.

Dorothy Winn– Fresno, California, USA

May 14, 2009

NOW they tell me. Well, actually, I learned about it several years ago. In 1970, I set up housekeeping with my parents’ old Club Aluminum pots and pans. The big dutch oven was the perfect size for making…and storing…great spaghetti sauce. I have to admit, when I heard the Alzheimer’s story, I stopped using the Club. I recently took the Club pieces out of storage and have begun using them again. Nothing else cooks quite the same. I do use glass or other containers to store….now, what was I talking about?

Faith Dower– Harrisville, WV

July 14, 2009

I believe that using aluminum to cook with can harm you. Ted Mooney obviously has a strong opinion for it and probably monetarily motivated. any substance heated up to the degrees used in cooking will give off some of the substance either in a gaseous or solid state.heating aluminum up to over 120 degrees will make some of it it go into the food you are preparing .heavy metals are stored in the brain and are directly linked to alzheimer’s. over a long period of time the amount will build up and store in the brain causing memory loss. Stay away from aluminum cookware, you and your family are worth it.

Mike Wilson– Dallas, Texas

July 14, 2009

Hi, Mike. You and Charles Mills and anyone else are welcome to cook with whatever you wish. You’re welcome to hold any opinion you wish. You’re welcome to have your opinions posted here — except for ad hominem comments like “probably monitarily motivated” which are unwelcome, make you look foolish, and foul the thread instead of moving it forward.

But myself, I’m going to trust the previously quoted, peer-reviewed opinion of the Alzeimer’s Association (an opinion supported by WHO, NIH and EPA) over your opinions until you cite some important peer-reviewed papers that you have delivered on the subject.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

October 18, 2009

I am now 63 and this is the very first response that I have EVER given to ANY site! However in the 70’s you will recall that an aluminum anodized cooking system was introduced via home cooking demonstrations. We bought some, and when cooking tomatoes, the anodizing came off. We continued to use it, and my wife loves her antique cast aluminum even today. It spreads heat so fast and works well. But here is why I responded;,,,As you read down this page you see so many responses, some motivated by what I would call common sense, and some I would call radical in a sense. Ten years ago doctors told us not to eat eggs, they were very bad for you! Now look they did a 180 degree turn. Butter too is a Killer they say,, my neighbor up the road is a farmer with whole milk containing tons of fat, they and I are still here and I love my butter. I think the Bible was right when it states “moderation in all things” even my glass of wine.

So thanks for this great site, and the aluminum cookware info, I for one use it, but I don’t use steel wool on it. When I sold cookware in the 70’s we used a powder cleaner and polish for the aluminum, then washed with soap then dried,, good health to you all,,,,,,,

Errol Stewartwatchmaker/jeweler – China, Maine

January 21, 2010

Ted,

I just finished reading through the past 2 years of entries on this thread. As a high school science teacher, I really appreciate that repeatedly, you gently point people back to the science and evidence on the issue.

While we do know there is a link between Alzheimers and aluminum there currently is no CAUSAL evidence. One thing we do have direct evidence of, is that the actual amount of aluminum possibly leached from aluminum cookware is relatively small compared to other potential sources. With the internet, we can find thousands of things that we are told to be afraid of, that have no evidence to back them up. Thank you for your part in encouraging people to look at the evidence and for promoting scientific literacy.

Doug Jipping– Chattanooga, Tennessee

March 17, 2010

Good discussions.

I am wondering if anyone has heard or has reference to ingested aluminum concentrating in the pancreas or other organs. Also, any studies on free radicals relative to aluminum? I used to be a health food vegetarian but noticed that a lot of people who use their brains and are moderate with just about everything including zealotry seem to live a long time. Genes and attitude and emotional health seem to be the biggest factors.

Science is king but not infallible. Research and an open mind and open sources are vital.

stephen bourne– putney, Vermont

April 13, 2010

I think it’s better to use natural materials like ceramic cookware or stainless steel to be on the safe side. It’s not worth risking your health after all in doubting materials.

Thanks

Andrew B– Malta

April 13, 2010

Hi, Andrew. I have no problem with your advice except for not quite understanding it 🙂

How is stainless steel “natural”? It involves mining chromium from South Africa or Kazakhstan, nickel from Russia or Canada, and molybdenum from the USA or China, and smelting all these metals together, etc.

If you were saying that ceramic is the natural material, I agree that it is a “low tech” material, but aren’t we right back to aluminum as being a principal component of china clay (kaolin) and fire clay? Plus there is currently great concern over the lead content in many ceramic pieces 🙂

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

May 9, 2010

This is not so much a response as a related question. I bought aluminum pots online and did not realize they come from Korea. I have nothing per se against the Koreans, however, the country is fairly unstable and not so friendly towards us. Now this being an imported product I am sure the import checkers or whatever they’re called, would have looked things over. They can’t do that at the origin though. Is there a lead test for this aluminum cookware that is easy and inexpensive or should I just mark it up as a loss & pitch’em?

Thanks, Liz

Liz Gallagher– Bowling Green, Ohio

May 10, 2010

Hi, Liz. About those mythical “import checkers”. There were certainly no such people when Walmart sold cadmium jewelry for kids, and MacDonalds gave out children’s glasses with lead paint. When I buy computer accessories they often come straight from Asia in boxes that no one has ever opened 🙂

Please don’t rely on inspection by U.S. authorities, because I think that is wishful thinking that harks back to the way things might have been in the sixties or earlier. We are drowning under imported foods and products that no American regulatory agency has even glanced at.

I don’t think lead is a real concern in aluminum cookware, but see http://www.springerlink.com/content/g41447801354380v/ which suggests bringing 5% acetic acid (vinegar) to simmer temperature in it a couple of times. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

May 15, 2010

I did some research and I was surprised with fact that

– Hindalium pots are heavily used in India, today

– India started using Alumina Pots recently since 50-60 years

– Ayurveda strongly suggest not to use any Alumina pots as cookware and traditionally alumina alloy pots were never been used in Indian family.

– First consignment of Alumina pots was supplied into Indian Jail to use for Indian prisoners, by British.

I hope above facts will help to choose what is good and safe for your health.

Satish Mishra– Pune India

July 31, 2010

Dear Ted,

Thank you so much for the site and your handling of this unclear–but clearly provocative–issue. I teach religious studies in college so you know I love discussions of unclear and provocative issues!

I just inherited my dad’s old 14″ aluminum dutch oven, the veteran of hundreds of stews and sourdoughs on Sierra Nevada pack trips. I dearly want to use it but my wife was concerned with possible health issues. After reviewing the posts and links in this thread, the irony is that now I’m concerned about lead instead! I know my dad–who was a physician and loved real evidence–would be happy for me to follow the cautious and yet evidence-based route. So I’m camping this coming week in the Yosemite high country and I’ll be boiling vinegar in my oven today!

Good wishes,

Franz

Franz Metcalf

– Los Angeles, CA, USA

August 2, 2010

Hi, Franz. Thanks for the kind words.

The jury is not in, and may never be in, on ten thousand different issues of what is safe and what is not. Partly because it’s all relative: you can safely consume a very small amount of cyanide in almonds, lima beans, and apple pips, despite it being such a powerful poison; and you can die from drinking too much water.

Personally, I feel that if a chemical is brand new and highly artificial, a lot of caution is in order. If it has been widely used for decades, like aluminum has, and a lot of research has been done on its possible hazards, it can’t be that dangerous 🙂

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

August 11, 2010

I think this is a really great discussion.I find it interesting that ‘common sense’ and is so much more convincing to people than science; that anecdotes outweigh evidence, and that both the State and vaguely defined commercial interests are conspiring against us all the time (I would accept ‘some of the time’, but then how could I differentiate?). It seems amazing to me that ‘alternative’ authorities (if such exist) are apparently paragons of virtue, with no particular perspective to promote…in spite of the fact that ‘alternative’ everything is huge business.

In my country, and I am sure in the US, the AMOUNT that is eaten is far more significant a risk factor than what it is cooked in. Life is in fact a mighty dodgy process, but it has been greatly improved by the benefits of science. So I also recommend a ‘common sense’ approach…go with the scientific evidence. I use both aluminium and stainless steel cookware, and select each item based on its appropriateness for the job. I thank you for giving me access to the science that will support my decision.

Scott Ray

– Auckland, New Zealand August 14, 2010

Please address pitting specifically

I have just had a wonderful, intellectually stimulating read of the aluminum cookware thread. Well done!

I just purchased a ton (well, not really a ton, but a lot) of cast aluminum cookware. My hubby hates stainless and loves the aluminum. This is very old cookware and some is heavily pitted. Are there issues with the pitting other than the possible leaching of aluminum? Can they be cleaned properly? Right now they are in pretty bad shape with cooked on grease on the outsides, but Hubby is willing to clean that if I will use the cookware.

Again, thanks for the most informative thread, but please address pitting specifically.

Lillian Kusmik

retired secretary/current artist – Meadowview, Virginia, USA

January , 2011

Hi, Lillian. Pits obviously make a pot harder to clean, but I don’t think they pose additional dangers. I use a Biletti expresso maker that had little if any anodizing on it. It pitted, although I blame myself for probably putting it away wet instead of drying it. I would suggest that you try cooking vinegar in it, dump the vinegar, of course, and from that point forward clean it only with soap and cook only non-acidic foods in it (avoid stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce).

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

August 23, 2010

Ted,

Thanks for the great info here. I have a 21 yr old 8 qt Calphalon anodized stockpot. Now, the interior has gone quite silvery across the bottom and up the sides, where I cook stew, soups and jams (sure, lots of acids). What I want to understand is, did the anodizing harden the aluminum ‘all the way through’ or just a layer on top? In other words, with the color gone, I am assuming the anodizing property is gone. True? I no longer am concerned about any health risk, but am curious. Thanks!

Michelle White

I cook! – Salem, Michigan, USA

August 24, 2010

Hi, Michelle. Anodizing is a surface treatment. The hard anodized layer on new cookware was probably about .002″ thick.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

August 24, 2010

thanks! I have nothing that performs as well as this (uncoated) stockpot. After being told a few days ago by a saleswoman that I should throw it away because it lost it’s coating,and that she was surprised it lasted over 7 yrs, I started some research. I originally bought anodized, thinking it would not leach into the food and would last forever. Well, the first no longer seems to be a real problem, and the second is a sure thing. Even w/out the coating, I’ve never had off-tasting food with it, or burned food! I no longer see the need to spend over $300 to replace it with a premium Stainless. your research ended my research- thanks again.

michelle m white

– salem, Michigan USA September 12, 2010

To quote John Emsley, an Oxford University chemistry

professor, from his book “Nature’s Building Blocks

/ an a-z guide to the elements”:

“Cooking in aluminium pans does not greatly increase the amount of aluminium in food except when cooking acidic foods such as rhubarb.”

This convinced me. He also dispelled the myth of brain plaque, alzheimer’s, related to aluminum by noting that the research had been discredited.

– Jonathan Wayne Edwards

Jonathan W. Edwards

– Stephens City, Virginia, USA

September 29, 2010

I have been told for years not to allow tomatoes to remain in an aluminum pot. I have several pieces of Club Aluminum but I never cook and let set tomatoes for fear of poisoning someone.

Peggy Webb

Cook – Grapevine, Arkansas

October 9, 2010

I have a hodge-podge of pots and pans; Magnalite, stainless, and stainless with aluminum bottoms or an aluminum layer inside the bottoms. My mother always warned to wash aluminum by hand because it discolors and she may have intuited that it does something to the anodized surface. Plain stainless simply doesn’t heat up, maintain even heat or clean as well. Things burn easily on the bottom. I do like the combination of stainless with aluminum bottoms. For cooking a large amount of soup or stew, the Magnalite is my only huge pot and frankly, the only material that would cook as well and be easy to clean in the end. I’m very wary of health-related discoveries but when the jury is out, use common sense. If I make soup that has some tomato, as I just did, I transfer it to other containers afterward. I wouldn’t make a tomato soup in it.

Likewise, wine, being acidic, shouldn’t sit long in even the finest crystal glasses because of the lead, yet how many people throw away their crystal glasses or even know about this, as so many more do about uncertified ceramics of dubious origins? Crystal glasses: the glass gets emptied summarily. Crystal decanter? Not such a good idea if it’s there very long. Abandon the microwave? Draconian. Just stand a few feet away. Use hard containers, cover with a paper towel instead of plastic wrap, etc.

I believe we have all been exposed to many hazards which weren’t recognized in the past, and unfortunately many cannot be avoided going forward. But these scares, particularly before being researched by disinterested parties, will always be alarmist and controversial. Choose your priorities and use common sense and go with your gut.

Martha Aarons

– Cleveland, Ohio, US

November 25, 2010

I have a stock pot that I bought from a cheap catalog place (cost about $17, and I believe it is stainless steel because I would not buy an aluminum pot knowingly. I planned to brine my turkey in it, but found out there is no marking on the pot or lid that says that it is stainless steel. I used an oven bag as a liner in the pot just to be safe, but the brine leaked out and the turkey and brine are exposed to the inside of the pot. Now I am concerned that the turkey will kill us all or make us sick. Do I take a chance this once and eat the bird, or is it a safe bet that the pot really is stainless steel. Thank you.

karen matthews

Grandmother – pittsburgh Pennsylvania usa

November 25, 2010

Hi, Karen. Happy Thanksgiving.

Aluminum is much lighter than stainless steel, 1/3 the weight, so you should be able to guess from that. Some stainless steel may be magnetic; aluminum is never magnetic, so if there is any trace of magnetism then it is not aluminum. Paracelsus said that poison is in the dose; so, with I and many others using aluminum pots every day of our lives and still here to talk about it, yes, it is safe for you to do it just this once 🙂

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

December 12, 2010

Thanks Ted for your insightful advice. Years ago I bought a set of enamel pots, then became paranoid when someone pointed out they were produced in South Africa and contained lead. Then I bought iron pots and was told they weren’t safe until they were well seasoned. So I opted for Teflon coated pots and was told that the coating wasn’t safe. The leaded crystal I bought for my wedding was also unsafe if I used it for acidic drinks or wine.

Sigh.

This week my husband and I finally chucked our decades old pitted and deteriorating pots and bought a set of Bialetti aluminum cookware last night. My mother immediately expressed concern about the link between Alzheimer’s and said she’d replaced her aluminum pots with something else. Now given that she’s a feisty retiree, that’s saying a lot.

I like the new pots and since I’m a trained engineer who is “retentive” about researching details I started looking for info to set her mind at ease. I couldn’t find any definitive causal relationships so I asked my husband, a physician, his opinion and he said he wasn’t inclined to take the pots back to the store.

We both agree that the rise in illness in the country is likely caused by a host of things, not to mention the accumulation of toxic chemicals (pesticides, factory waste, etc.), poor diet, lack of physical and intellectual stimulation, high stress, and artificial food additives in our daily lives. The pots are the least of my worries.

Guess we’ll be enjoying them. Thank you for helping with that decision.

Christine Taylor

– Kansas City, Missouri

December 30, 2010

As the cynic I am. me thinks lawyers started the “aluminum is poison” movement. Nothing quite starts the day off like a good class-action lawsuit of an evil greedy corporation trying to kill old people. I would trust the alzheimers association by leaps and bounds over the WHO and the EPA. WHO has shelved research that didn’t fit the expected/desired result. Second hand smoke being the reference here. Love how you breakdown the unbeliever’s emotional and seemingly factless replies.

Merry Holidays and happy Christmas

Ozzie

Jim Musselman

– Oakdale, Illinois, USA

January 1, 2011

Wowza! Nice Debate. Ok, I came across a brand spanking new “Wagnerware Magnalite Improved stain resistant cast aluminum with magnesium” pot (dutch oven). Even has the label on it. I was wondering about this magnesium addition and if that is a benefit or detriment. It’s funny as it says on the label to use a bit of steel wool to keep it bright.

Anyway, I’m going to wash it up and give it a whirl.

Thinking back, I think my mom’s pots were a lot of aluminum – so I’m not so concerned.

So, what is the deal with the magnesium?

Jill Carpenter

– Shrewsbury, Vermont USA

January 2, 2011

Hi, Jill. Milk of Magnesia, which people take as an antacid, is magnesium hydroxide. I doubt that an aluminum-magnesium pot could deliver a single small dose of magnesium over a lifetime. No worries. As for whether it cooks better or looks better, I don’t know. Magnesium does tend to go grayish (see letter 003 about the demise of mag wheels), hence the steel wool brightening suggestion.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, P.E.

finishing.com

Brick, New Jersey

ORIGINAL:

http://www.finishing.com/225/51.shtml 

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3 Responses to “Is there a danger in Cast aluminum cookware?”

  1. George of Bradford, MA (USA) 20/10/2012 at 15:46 #

    I feel that cast aluminum is still aluminum, either it is a cookware or a bakeware. They are still not healthy. The safest cookware and bakeware are stainless steel, cast iron, and enameled cast iron.

    • Concatervate 02/12/2012 at 4:28 #

      The greatest thing about internet these days, is that we can search, find good sources and make our own decisions. After all I found I decided not to throw the few pieces I own but indeed there is safer cook/bakeware. Regarding enamel, it definitely isn’t for me… I’m a woman but damn it, I can’t deal with delicate things like that; once chipped you gotta get rid of them, specially here in Colombia where one can’t know what are the lead levels in them.

      Anyhow, I still use thick pieces of aluminum in the rare occasion I want to fry something or when I need to brown evenly some piece of meat… 😀

  2. Nick 20/10/2012 at 16:38 #

    The safest cookwares and bakewares are cast iron, stainless steel, and enameled cast iron. Anything that is aluminum, regardless that is cast aluminum, anondized aluminum, whatever aluminum, they are still aluminum.

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