How to Test Cast Iron for Lead

How to Test Cast Iron for Lead

Many home cooks are curious about the lead content of their plate ware, tableware, and cookware. In particular, there is concern about the lead content in cast iron pots and pans. The truth is that while this type of cookware typically does not contain lead, there are some exceptions. For example, cookware decorated with an enamel finish may contain toxicants such as lead. Therefore, if you are concerned about lead exposure, it’s important to know how to test cast iron for lead.

The Dangers of Lead

Home safety is an important issue for Americans. Indoor air quality, as well as the levels of chemicals found in household appliances and accessories, concerns many of us. For those households with young children, these concerns multiply. It’s the reason many people use air purifiers in their homes and put a focus on proper ventilation. The presence of lead in common household items is also a concern.

These fears are not unfounded. In fact, some ceramics used for cooking, storing, and serving food do contain lead. Therefore, knowing how to test for lead in cookware, such as cast iron pots in pans, is useful. It keeps the home safe by lowering the health risks associated with this element. Lead is toxic to humans but is especially dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn children.

Is Lead Used to Make Cast Iron Cookware?

In general, lead is not used to make cast iron cookware. The reason for this is that lead has a much lower melting pot than iron. Iron melts at 1,535° C while lead melts at 327.5 °C. If lead was present it would boil away before it was cast in the same way the alcohol boils away when you cook with wine. However, two exceptions exist.

Exception #1: Cookware with a Decorative Enamel Finish

While not present in the cast itself, outside decorations may contain iron. The enamel finish found on many cookware items resists high temperatures. As such it may contain lead and other toxicants, sometimes at high levels. As well, a ceramic coating made with lead creates a non-stick surface the inside of the pan may contain lead. For this reason, it is important to know how to test cast iron for lead.

Exception #2: How to Test Antique Cast Iron for Lead

Another exception to the rule is antique or vintage cast iron cookware. Again, the casting process does not use lead, but the pan may have been used to melt lead. Why would anyone melt lead in their home? Few would, of course, however, some toy hobbyists used cast iron to melt lead so it is workable in the making of figurines. Since iron has a much higher boiling point, a cast iron pan may contain lead residue. Again, this applies to antique items, not new ones. If you purchase vintage cookware and are unsure of its origins, learn how to test cast iron for lead or do not use the item for cooking.

Lead Test Kit
Learn how to test cast iron for lead.

How to Test Cast Iron for Lead

Testing is the only way to determine the presence of lead in cookware and tableware. Purchase a DIY test kit and find out for sure. These kits also detect lead in dishes such as serving bowls, plates, and drinkware as well as toys, lunchboxes, paint, electronics, and jewelry. Chipped and cracked items pose an even greater threat as leaching may have occurred. These easy-to-use tests get quick results and do not require an outside lab.

Before testing the surface of your cookware, clean the surface to remove dust and dirt. Use the swab included in the kit and rub it on the surface for 30 to 60 seconds. The swab changes color with the detection of lead. Take action based on the results and do not use any cooking items containing lead.

Government Regulation

The good news for people concerned about lead levels in the products they buy is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates lead levels. In fact, it is illegal for companies to sell products that exceed the recommended levels. The state of California in particular has stringent rules pertaining to lead. Businesses must warn consumers about any products containing lead. Even so, knowing how to test items such as cast iron for lead is good information to have.

Order a Lead Testing Kit Today

Find out for sure if your kitchen items contain toxicants. To learn more about how to test cast iron for lead or to order a test kit, call 727-572-4550 today. Additional test kits include screenings for dust, mold, chemicals, radon, allergens, and more.